Skip to main content
Intended for healthcare professionals
Restricted access
Research article
First published online May 22, 2016

Scientific Psychology in the 18th Century: A Historical Rediscovery

Abstract

As early as 1783, the almost forgotten philosopher, metaphysicist, and psychologist Ferdinand Ueberwasser (1752–1812) designated himself “Professor für empirische Psychologie und Logik” (professor of empirical psychology and logic) at the University of Münster, Germany. His position was initiated and supported by the minister and educational reformer Franz von Fürstenberg (1729–1810), who considered psychology a core scientific discipline that should be taught at each school and university. At the end of the 18th century, then, psychology seems to have been on the verge of becoming an independent academic discipline, about 100 years before Wilhelm Wundt founded the discipline’s first official laboratory. It seems surprising that Ueberwasser’s writings—including a seminal textbook on empirical psychology—have been almost entirely overlooked in most historical accounts. We focus on this important founding moment of psychological science and on the circumstances that eventually brought this seminal development to a halt.

Get full access to this article

View all access and purchase options for this article.

References

Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung. (1788, February 29), pp. 553–555.
Bahlmann P. (1895). Ueberwasser, Ferdinand. Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, 39, 118–119.
Bierbrodt J. (2000). Naturwissenschaft und Ästhetik 1750–1810 [Natural science and aesthetics 1750–1810]. Würzburg, Germany: Königshausen und Neumann.
Biunde F. X. (1832). Versuch einer systematischen Behandlung der empirischen Psychologie: Zweiter Band. [Attempt of a systematic account of empirical psychology. Second volume]. Trier, Germany: F. A. Gall.
Boring E. G. (1929). A history of experimental psychology. New York, NY: Appleton-Century.
Boring E. G. (1953). A history of introspection. Psychological Bulletin, 50, 169–189.
Brauns H.-P. (2002). Zur Methodenfrage der Psychologie im 18. Jahrhundert [On the question of methodology in psychology in the 18th century]. Psychologie und Geschichte, 10, 178–199.
Büchel C., Geuter S., Sprenger C., Eippert F. (2014). Placebo analgesia: A predictive coding perspective. Neuron, 81, 1223–1239.
Carus F. A. (1990). Geschichte der Psychologie [History of psychology] (Eckardt G., Scheerer E., Sprung L., Eds.). Leipzig, Germany: Iohann Ambriosius Barth und Paul Gotthelf Kummer. (Original work published 1808)
de Craen A. J. M., Kaptchuk T. J., Tijssen J. G. P., Kleijnen J. (1999). Placebos and placebo effects in medicine: Historical overview. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 92, 511–515.
Elstrodt J., Schmitz N. (2013). Geschichte der Mathematik an der Universität Münster - Teil I: 1773–1945 [History of mathematics at the University of Münster - Part 1: 1773–1945]. Münster, Germany: Author.
Eschenmayer E. A. (1817). Psychologie in drei Theilen als empirische, reine und angewandte [Psychology in three parts, as empirical, basic and applied]. Tübingen, Germany: Johann Georg Cotta’sche Buchhandlung.
Esser W. (1832). Denkschrift auf Georg Hermes, gewesenen Doctor der Theologie und Philosophie, Professor der Theologie an der Rheinischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, und Dom-Capitular der Metropolitan-Kirche zu Köln [Memorandum for Georg Hermes, former Doctor of Theology and Philosophy, Professor of Theology at the University of Bonn, and capitular of the metropolitan church of Cologne]. Köln, Germany: M. DuMont-Schauberg.
Esser W. (1842). Franz von Fürstenberg. Dessen Leben und Wirken nebst seinen Schriften über Erziehung und Unterricht [Franz von Fürstenberg. His life and achievements, accompanied by his writings on education and teaching.]. Münster, Germany: J. H. Deiters.
Fuchs A. H., Evans R. B. (2012). Psychology as a science. In Weiner I. B. (Ed.), Handbook of psychology, Vol.1: History of psychology (2nd ed., pp. 1–31). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Fürstenberg F. F. von. (1960). Schulordnung [Educational regulations]. Münster, Germany: Aschendorff. (Original work published 1776)
Hamberger G. C., Meusel J. G. (1800). Das Gelehrte Teutschland oder Lexikon der jetzt lebenden teutschen Schriftsteller (5th ed., Vol. 8) [The Educated Germany, or: encyclopedia of contemporary German writers (5th ed., Vol. 8]. Lemgo, Germany: Meyersche Buchhandlung.
Herbart J. F. (1824/1825). Psychologie als Wissenschaft, neu gegründet auf Erfahrung, Metaphysik, und Mathematik. [Psychology as a science, newly founded on experience, metaphysics, and mathematics]. Königsberg, Germany: August Wilhelm Unzer.
Jahnke J. (2007). Moral und Erfahrungsseelenkunde als Problem der Pädagogik. In Beetz M., Garber J., Thoma H. (Eds.), Physis und Norm: Neue Perspektiven der Anthropologie im 18. Jahrhundert [Physis and norm. Emerging perspectives of anthropology in the 18th century] (pp. 208–224). Göttingen, Germany: Wallstein.
John M. (2001). Psychologen um 1800: “Denn sie sind jetzt nicht mehr so selten wie ehedem.” [Psychologists around 1800: “because today they are not as rare as in the past”]. In Eckhardt G., John M., van Zantwijk T., Ziche P. (Eds.), Anthropologie und empirische Psychologie um 1800 (pp. 111–132). Köln, Germany: Böhlau.
John M. (2002). “Empirische Psychologie” im System der Wissenschaften um 1800 [“Empirical psychology” in the system of the sciences around 1800]. Psychologie und Geschichte, 10, 166–177.
Lahrkamp M. (1993). Jahre des Umbruchs - Säkularisation und französische Herrschaft (1802–1815) [Years of imposition - Secularization and French Occupation (1802–1815)]. In Jakobi F.-J. (Ed.), Geschichte der Stadt Münster (Vol. 2, pp. 1–45). Münster, Germany: Aschendorff.
LAV NRW W. (2014a). Sammlung von Beesten Dep., Nr. 157. Münster, Germany.
LAV NRW W. (2014b). Studienfonds Münster, Akademie, Nr. 4903.
Marx C. (1829). Geschichte des Gymnasiums in Coesfeld [History of the Gymnasium in Coesfeld]. Coesfeld, Germany: Literarisches Kommissions-Komtor.
Mauchart J. D. (1793). Allgemeines Repertorium für empirische Psychologie und verwandte Wissenschaften [General repertorium for empirical psychology and related sciences]. Nürnberg, Germany: Felseckerische Buchhandlung.
Meier G. F. (1757). Metaphysik: Dritter Theil. Die Psychologie [Metaphysics. Third Part. Psychology]. Halle, Germany: Johann Justinus Gebauer.
Meischner W., Eschler E. (1979). Wilhelm Wundt. Leipzig, Germany: Urania.
Pieper A. (1902). Die alte Universität Münster, 1773–1818 [The old University of Münster, 1773–1818]. Münster, Germany: Regensbergsche Buchhandlung und Buchdruckerei.
Pollen J. H. (1912). The suppression of the Jesuits (1750–1773). In The Catholic encyclopedia. New York, NY: Robert Appleton.
Prinz W. (2014). Kognitionspsychologische Handlungsforschung: Der Ideomotorische Ansatz [Cognitive action science: The ideomotor approach]. In Prinz W. (Ed.), Experimentelle Handlungsforschung (pp. 11–55). Stuttgart, Germany: Kohlhammer.
Prinz W., De Maeght S., Knuf L. (2005). Intention in action. In Humphreys G. W., Riddoch M. J. (Eds.), Attention in action: Advances from cognitive neuroscience (pp. 93–107). Hove, United Kingdom: Psychology Press.
Richards R. J. (1980). Christian Wolff’s prolegomena to empirical and rational psychology: Translation and commentary. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 124, 227–239.
Schmid C. C. E. (1791). Empirische Psychologie [Empirical psychology]. Jena, Germany: Cröker.
Schwarz K. A., Pfister R., Büchel C. (in press). Rethinking explicit expectations: Connecting placebos, social cognition, and contextual perception. Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
Ueberwasser F. (1787). Anweisungen zum regelmäßigen Studium der Empirischen Psychologie für die Candidaten der Philosophie zu Münster [Instructions for the regular study of empirical psychology for candidates of philosophy at the University of Münster]. Münster, Germany: Friedrich Christian Theißing.
Ueberwasser F. (1800). Ueber das Begehrungsvermögen [On motivation and desire]. Münster, Germany: Waldeck.
Universität Münster. (1807). Verzeichnis der Vorlesungen [Lecture schedule]. Retrieved from http://d-nb.info/1017791929
Vidal F. (1993). Psychology in the 18th century: A view from encyclopedias. History of the Human Sciences, 6(1), 89–119.
Vidal F. (2000). The eighteenth century as “century of psychology.” Annual Review of Law and Ethics, 8, 407–434.
Vidal F. (2011). The sciences of the soul: The early modern origins of psychology. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Walach H. (2011). Placebo controls: Historical, methodological and general aspects. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 366, 1870–1878.
Wilmans R. (1875). Zur Geschichte der Universität Münster in den Jahren 1802–1818 [On the history of the University of Münster in the years 1802–1818]. Zeitschrift fuer Deutsche Kulturgeschichte, 4, 257–299.
Wolff C. (1732). Psychologia empirica [Empirical psychology]. Frankfurt, Germany: Officina Libraria Rengeriana.

Supplementary Material

A Historical Rediscovery

Data Supplement

Files in this Data Supplement:

Summary

Additional supporting information may be found at http://pps.sagepub.com/content/by/supplemental-data

Resources

File (schwarzueberwasser_supplement.pdf)

Cite article

Cite article

Cite article

OR

Download to reference manager

If you have citation software installed, you can download article citation data to the citation manager of your choice

Share options

Share

Share this article

Share with email
EMAIL ARTICLE LINK
Share on social media

Share access to this article

Sharing links are not relevant where the article is open access and not available if you do not have a subscription.

For more information view the SAGE Journals article sharing page.

Information, rights and permissions

Information

Published In

Article first published online: May 22, 2016
Issue published: May 2016

Keywords

  1. history of psychology
  2. 18th century
  3. psychology
  4. philosophy

Rights and permissions

© The Author(s) 2016.
Request permissions for this article.

History

Issue published: May 2016
Published online: May 22, 2016
PubMed: 27217252

Authors

Affiliations

Katharina A. Schwarz
Department of Psychology, University of Würzburg
Roland Pfister
Department of Psychology, University of Würzburg

Notes

Roland Pfister, Department of Psychology, University of Würzburg, Röntgenring 11, D-97070 Würzburg, Germany E-mail: [email protected]
Author Contributions
Both authors verified the historical accuracy of the reported findings, and they drafted the article in cooperation.

Metrics and citations

Metrics

Journals metrics

This article was published in Perspectives on Psychological Science.

VIEW ALL JOURNAL METRICS

Article usage*

Total views and downloads: 1240

*Article usage tracking started in December 2016

Altmetric

See the impact this article is making through the number of times it’s been read, and the Altmetric Score.
Learn more about the Altmetric Scores


Articles citing this one

Web of Science: 5 view articles Opens in new tab

Crossref: 15

  1. A City of Listeners
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  2. For a Theory of Genres of Listening
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  3. The Music in the Words
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  4. “What You Really Mean Is …”
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  5. The Psychoanalytic Field in Buenos Aires
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  6. The Mass Mediation of Psychoanalytic Listening
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  7. Final Resonances
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  8. Notes
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  9. References
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  10. A look back, a path forward: Revisiting the mental health and well-bei...
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  11. The Epistemic Imperialism of Science. Reinvigorating Early Critiques o...
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  12. Placebo Effects
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  13. Should We Pre-date the Beginning of Scientific Psychology to 1787?
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  14. Sleeping beauties in psychology
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  15. Rethinking Explicit Expectations: Connecting Placebos, Social Cognitio...
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar

Figures and tables

Figures & Media

Tables

View Options

Get access

Access options

If you have access to journal content via a personal subscription, university, library, employer or society, select from the options below:

APS members can access this journal content using society membership credentials.

APS members can access this journal content using society membership credentials.


Alternatively, view purchase options below:

Purchase 24 hour online access to view and download content.

Access journal content via a DeepDyve subscription or find out more about this option.

View options

PDF/ePub

View PDF/ePub

Full Text

View Full Text