Society for the Teaching of Psychology

Division 2 of the American Psychological Association

A Brief Biographical Sketch of G. Stanley Hall

Granville Stanley Hall (1844-1924) pioneered American psychology in its early years. His contributions included the establishment of psychological journals in the United States and a notable role in the creating of the American Psychological Association. His education initially focused on theology (which included activity as a preacher for a short time), before Hall turned to philosophy, then psychology. When Wundt published his Physiolologische Psychologie, Hall immediately wanted to go to Germany and study with Wundt. He was sidetracked at Harvard, however, where he earned his doctorate in psychology with William James in 1878. He then traveled to Leipzig to study with Wundt and other psychologists (Marshall, 1988).

Upon returning to America, Hall taught briefly at Harvard before assuming a position at Johns Hopkins University in 1881. His laboratory at Johns Hopkins is considered to be the first American laboratory of psychology (discounting William James's demonstrational laboratory of 1875). In 1887 Hall founded the American Journal of Psychology. He also served as the first president of the American Psychological Association in 1892 and was re-elected shortly before his death in 1924.

When Clark University opened, Hall was named president. At Clark, Hall founded the Pedagogical Seminary, now the Journal of Genetic Psychology (1891), the short-lived Journal of Religious Psychology (1904), and the Journal of Applied Psychology (1915).

Hall's interests centered around child development and evolutionary theory. He was influenced by Haeckle's now famous notion that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny", which pervaded Hall's subsequent developmental theory. Hall's interests naturally led him to educational issues (Hilgard, 1987) as well as to child psychology. He was a popular, influential lecturer and writer and his impact was pronounced both among psychologists and among the general public. His interests included the controversial portrayal of the putative differences in the natures of women and men (Diehl, 1988) as well as the unsavory concept of racial eugenics (Hothersall, 1990). He also pioneered the use of surveys, an approach he picked up while wandering through Germany earlier in his education.

He had a remarkable impact on the development of American psychology in his role as "the great teacher of graduate students during the first decades of American psychology" (Hothersall, 1990, p. 296). By 1893, he had supervised 11 of the 14 American Ph.D.s in psychology; by 1898, 30 of 54. His students included notable psychologists like Arnold Gesell, Lewis Terman, James McKeen Cattell, John Dewey, Joseph Jastrow, and Edmund C. Sanford, the latter four eventually serving as presidents of APA (Hilgard, 1987).

Goodchild (1996) has provided a more extensive discussion of Hall's career; it is available electronically at

The G. Stanley Hall Lecture Series honors Hall for his role as founder of the American Psychological Association. "Such a designation seemed especially appropriate given Hall's considerable interest in teaching and his diverse interests in psychology, which included perception, child study, mental testing, emotion, hypnosis, prejudice, aging, industrial psychology, and psychoanalysis" (Benjamin, 1981, p. 3).


Benjamin, L. T., jr. (1981). Preface. In L. T. Benjamin, Jr. (Ed.), G. Stanley Hall Lecture Series (Vol. 1, pp. 1-6).
Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Diehl, L. A. (1988). The Paradox of G. Stanley Hall: Foe of Coeducation and Educator of Women. In L. T. Benjamin, jr. (ed.). A History of Psychology: Original Sources and Contemporary Research. New York: McGraw Hill.

Goodchild, L. F. (1996). G. Stanley Hall and the Study of Higher Education. The Review of Higher Education, 20, 69-99.

Hilgard, E. R. (1987). Psychology in America: A Historical Survey. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Hothersall, D. (1990). History of Psychology (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Marshall, M. E. (1988). Biographical Genre and Biographical Archetype: Five Studies of Gustav Theodor Fechner. In L. T. Benjamin, jr. (ed.). A History of Psychology: Original Sources and Contemporary Research. New York: McGraw Hill.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software