Edward Thorndike

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Edward Lee Thorndike (August 31, 1874 – August 9, 1949) was an American psychologist who spent nearly his entire career at Teachers College, Columbia University. His work on animal behavior and the learning process led to the theory of connectionism and helped lay the scientific foundation for modern educational psychology. He also worked on solving industrial problems, such as employee exams and testing. He was a member of the board of the Psychological Corporation, and served as president of the American Psychological Association in 1912.[1][2]


Childhood and education

Thorndike, born in Williamsburg, Massachusetts[3], was the son of a Methodist minister in Lowell, Massachusetts.[4]

On August 29, 1900, he wed Elizabeth Moulton and they had five children.[5]

Thorndike graduated from The Roxbury Latin School (1891), in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, Wesleyan University (B.S. 1895), Harvard University (M.A. 1897), and Columbia University (PhD. 1898).[3]

Edward Thorndike became an American pioneer in Comparative Psychology. He was also a well respected colleague at Columbia University, where he taught alongside fellow staff.

Upon graduation, Thorndike returned to his initial interest, Educational Psychology. In 1898 he completed his PhD at Columbia University under the supervision of James McKeen Cattell, one of the founding fathers of psychometrics. In 1899, after a year of unhappy, initial employment at the College for Women of Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio, he became an instructor in psychology at Teachers College at Columbia University, where he remained for the rest of his career, studying human learning, education, and mental testing. In 1937 Thorndike became the second President of the Psychometric Society, following in the footsteps of Louis Leon Thurstone who had established the society and its journal Psychometrika the previous year.

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