Granville Stanley Hall and William James: Analytical Essay

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Granville Stanley Hall was considered a prophet of science, psychology, and youth. He was eager and well-equipped to share his views on psychology and how he believed it could change and revive education and religion. Hall originally set out to become a minister but was far too interested in literature and philosophy. He pursued his education and was able to teach and give lectures on philosophy and pedagogy both of which he was remarkable at. When he heard about psychology as a branch of philosophy, he was excited by the “new scientific psychology” offered by William James at Harvard and became the first person to get his doctorate under the new field of psychology. Hall started implementing psychology into his lectures and went on to organize the new field, set up a lab, the American Journal of Psychology, and the American Psychological Association where he served as the first President. Hall went on to become the president of Clark University where he directed his attention to a child study movement involving the questionnaire method and unveiled his book Adolescence bringing to light his genetic psychology. Hall brought many distinguished guests to Clark to speak and with an appreciation of Sigmund Freud’s work invited him to speak which brought him to the United States for the first time to lecture on psychoanalysis. Good end? Citation??

A Glimpse into G. Stanley Hall

From Farm to Philosophy

Granville Stanley Hall was said to be born on February 1844 on his parent's farm in Ashfield, Massachusetts. Although he did use the name G. Stanley Hall or Granville he was mostly known as Stanley throughout his life. Both his father (Granville Bascon Hall) and his mother (Abigail Beals) demonstrated strong beliefs in education and religion (Parry,2006). Since his father was mostly stern, he turned to his gentler mother for consolation. Due to hostility between him and his father, Hall developed a high ambition “to do something in the world”. Hall was not interested enough in farm work but quickly grew a passion for literary and artistic activities where he could have an outlet for his imagination. With his early love of literature in his teens, he started an autobiography, had a journal, wrote poems and stories, and fantasized himself speaking in front of large audiences. He was a founder of music overwriting at one point because it allowed him to express his emotions and escape the farm. He ultimately realized he did not have enough talent for the piano so the fantasy of being a great pianist stayed with him throughout his life. Ultimately, his parent's traditional ways urged him to pursue higher education and become a minister (Ross, 1972, p.12).

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Hall left his family farm to pursue his education about 30 miles away at Williams College in 1867 (Parry,2006). This endeavor caused him pain and he instantly felt his peers were more knowledgeable than him and that the material was difficult (Ross, 1972, p.15). Soon after starting college, he wrote home stating he experienced a religious conversion. Although religion seemed to lift his spirits and give him confidence, he found intellectual and social activities far more interesting at college. His classes no longer became challenging and he became involved in almost every extracurricular activity offered (Ross, 1972, p.18).

As Hall approached his senior year, he could take courses in philosophy and literature. Hall explored different aspects of philosophy with guidance from his professors which led him to narrow his focus to philosophy over literature because he felt it better matched his talents. Hall was invested in the idea of intellectual creativity but still unsure of his future before he graduated from Williams College in 1867 (at age twenty-three) where he was able to finish sixth in a class of forty-three (Ross, 1972, p.15).

Since graduate school in the field of philosophy did not seem to exist, Hall set out on the path of getting his education in ministry. Hall enrolled in Union Theological Seminary where he took classes and taught school during the summer for a source of income (Ross, 1972, p.31). Hall strongly considered studying abroad in Germany but knew he or his family could not afford it. He had heard great things about studying there and looked up to a fellow seminarian George S. Morris who encouraged his philosophical ambitions and had just returned from studying abroad when they met. Hall stumbled upon the opportunity to study in Germany where he told his parents he was studying theology when he was exploring philosophy. Hall loved Germany and wished he had the financial means to stay longer but ultimately knew that he wanted to become a professor of philosophy (Ross, 1972, p.42).

Hall returned to the United States to finish his last year at Union Seminary and went on to be a pastor at a church but soon after decided to leave (Parry,2006). Due to abandoning his religious orthodoxy, it became hard for Hall to secure a teaching position in philosophy. He soon was contacted by a young scholar he met in Germany, James K. Hosmer who was looking to leave his spot teaching rhetoric and English at Antioch College and recommended him for the spot. He was also aware that James' father was the president looking to retire which could eventually land him a spot teaching philosophy (Ross, 1972, p.49).

[bookmark: _Hlk6689111]Hall taught at Antioch College from 1872 to 1876 where he earned an excellent reputation teaching literature and mental philosophy. He was exposed to psychology as a field of philosophy, but in 1870 and 1872 when the second edition of Spencer’s Principles of Psychology surfaced, he began introducing psychology into his lectures. Then when he heard about William Wundt’s Grundzuge der physiologischen Psychologie he was enthusiastic (Ross, 1972, p.59). Hall was now faced with a decision to leave Antioch due to not having enough philosophy students to keep him busy. With his future uncertain again, he decided to leave and without new teaching, assignment decided to go to Harvard to hear lectures pending his decision to go back to Germany (Ross, 1972, p.61).

When Hall arrived in 1976, Harvard University was distinct from other universities because of their philosophy department that offered “new scientific psychology” by the assistant physiology professor, William James. James was able to convince Harvard to let him teach physiological psychology where it became the only university in the country it was taught. He also managed to secure his friend H.P. Bowditch’s physiology laboratory for his students to do research (Ross, 1972, p.59). Harvard was also in the process of providing a Ph.D. program. These opportunities along with William James’ faith in the development of physiology and psychology convinced Hall to stay and continue his education at Harvard.

Psychology unfolded

Hall did most of his work at Harvard with William James and very much looked up to him just as he had done with George Morris. The freshness of psychology with the idea of the scientific method attracted Hall’s creativity, intellectual work, and self-development (Ross,1972, p.72). Hall’s theory on color vision was published and his work was considered ingenious and changed him into a scholar. In 1878, Hall passed an oral examination awarding him the first doctorate in philosophy in the new subject of Psychology. This was the first doctorate awarded by Harvard’s philosophy department and the first doctorate in the field of psychology ever awarded in the country (Ross,1972, p.79).

Even with Hall’s advanced degree, finding a position in the new field of psychology was not going to be easy. Hall was itching to go back to Germany because his friends mentioned: that “scientific psychology” was growing there. With no luck, Hall headed back to Germany where he planned to study physiology and psychology in Berlin. He would find Hermann von Helmholtz lecturing and Emil du Bois-Reymond’s new physiological institute. He would also go to Leipzig and find the country’s well-known physiologist Carl Ludwig and the forerunner of the new field of psychology, Wilhelm Wundt, and his new experimental laboratory. Hall was more focused on the scientific aspect of psychology and the study of education and was hopeful to bring all the possibilities to light when he returned to the United States in 1880 (Ross,1972, p.103).

Hall was a major part of organizing the new field of psychology when he returned to the United States. He was able to lecture at Harvard University on psychology and pedagogy. The lectures became so successful he gave similar lectures at John Hopkins University. He even set up a small lab where he found four students: James McKeen Cattell, Joseph Jastrow, E.M. Hartell, and John Dewey interested in “new psychology” and they became the first to engage in research (Ross, 1972, p.134). In 1884, Hall was given his first secure position at John Hopkins becoming the first chair of the new field of psychology in the country. He continued his profession as a professor of psychology and pedagogy and described new psychology in three divisions: the study of instinct, experimental psychology, and historical psychology (Ross, 1972, p.153).

In 1887, Hall unveiled the American Journal of Psychology which he intended for not only his fellow colleagues but to define the field in general. Although the idea of Hall’s “scientific psychology” was controversial, he exclusively wanted empirical studies and excluded any introspective and theoretical psychology. Philosophy could be included if it was intended for the purpose of using as data for psychological studies (Ross, 1972, p.171).

With John Hopkin's psychology department still new and not financially stable enough for Hall to stay, he moved on and became the first president of Clark University in 1888 and was important in developing psychology as a profession (Ross, 1972, p.179). Hall brought with him some of his best students: Donaldson, Sanford, and Burnham who went on to do significant work in their fields of psychology. Hall began to broaden scientific psychology with others looking upon. Hall's work at Clark could become a rival to William James’s work at Harvard which motivated them to establish a laboratory.

In 1892, Hall was credited with starting the American Psychological Association and served as its first president (Parry,2006). Hall sent out at least twenty-six invitations to people interested in the new psychology such as William James, John Dewey, Josiah Royce, and many more whether Hall had different views personally or intellectually (Ross, 1972, p.182-183). The Association went from having 31 members to 74 a few years later to having 127 in 1900. Hall granted 9 doctorates in psychology and by 1897, there were more doctorates in psychology than any other field in science besides chemistry (Ross, 1972, p.184).

Hall promoted education reform in an original way by studying children. He had first attempted the child study movement back in 1882 and even published his study in 1883 called the Contents of the Children’s Minds and it was instantaneously successful to reform education based on children’s nature. Hall was overwhelmed with the variety of material he had collected from his studies and realized they posed more questions then answers and put in on hold in 1885.

Hall continued his child study movement in the 1890s and flourished interest with his lectures on higher pedagogy and psychology (Ross, 1972, p.281). Hall was able to gain students, joint chairs of psychology and pedagogy, and professors to join into his child study movement. Hall continued to lecture to win over the public and he spoke with sincerity and ensured that child study was to benefit the teachers first and only then for the purpose of science. Hall focused his research on the nature of the child and obtained his large amounts of information from teachers and mothers through his questionnaire method. Between 1894 to 1915, he had sent out 194 questionnaires on his various topics of child study (Ross, 1972, p.291).

After his various child studies, Hall directed his attention to early adolescence. In 1904, Hall published a two-volume study: Adolescence: Its Psychology and Its Relation to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Sex, Crime, Religion, and Education (Parry, 2006). It expressed his ideal education program in detail, an in-depth description of adolescence, and his idea of genetic psychology. Hall's genetic psychology consisted of infancy to senescence and psychopathology, and he also included theories from Sigmund Freud (Ross, 1972, p.381).

Perhaps one of the last things Hall is known for is for bringing Sigmund Freud to the United States. Freud strengthened some of Hall's own ideas about trauma in early adolescence, repression, and emotional catharsis. With the anniversary of the founding of Clark University coming up, Hall was looking for intellectual leaders to bring in to speak at their conference. It was proposed by the faculty to bring in Herman Ebbinghaus and Ernst Meumann but Hall went off on his own to invite Sigmund Freud and eventually Carl Gustav Jung who was known for his association tests. In 1909, both Freud and Jung gave lectures at Clark University which turned out to be the biggest conference held. They spoke to distinguished guests and were honored for their work for the first time in the world (Ross, 1972, p.388).

Hall’s Legacy ----Need a better title

After Granville Stanley Hall received the first doctorate in psychology, he did the hard work of organizing psychology in the United States and without him it would have taken a much longer time for it to emerge as a professional field. He influenced psychology and urged the profession to be more scientific and used in practical applications such as education reform and transforming religion (Ross, 1972, p.421).

Even before Hall’s time as president of Clark University, he had secured a laboratory that inspired early research from his students. This led to other universities and William James to follow suit and also lead to his child study movement which may not have panned out the way he had planned but it inspired progressive education, child development, educational psychology, clinical psychology, school hygiene, and mental testing that exists in some form today (Ross,1972, p.367).

His childhood dreams of speaking in front of large audiences came true as he gave impeccable lectures that inspired the public. He spoke passionately about psychology and education throughout his career to parents, teachers, educators, psychologists, and practically anyone that would listen (Ross, 1972, p.xiv). His lectures led to him securing teaching positions that allowed him to spread his knowledge and securing the future of psychology for the United States by awarding doctorates in the field.

Hall's distinguished positions not only allowed him to spread his knowledge but allowed him to bring intellectuals such as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung to the United States and bring forth their ideas that would lead psychology forward. Hall furthered his new psychology by creating the American Journal of Psychology for research to be shared and the American Psychological Association both of which still exist today. Hall's mark on psychology may be overlooked but is made prominent by his boldness, ambition, and his ability to shed light on important ideas and bring forth psychology and future subfields to the United States.


  1. Ross, D. (1972). G. Stanley Hall: The psychologist as a prophet. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  2. Parry M. (2006). G. Stanley Hall: psychologist and early gerontologist. American journal of public health, 96(7), 1161. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2006.090647
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