Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York  

Back to News

Web Extra: Conference Focuses on History of Psychology in New York


Fordham’s Role in Development of Psychology
Explored at Conference

Mark Mattson, Ph.D., outlines the history of the psychology department at Fordham.
Photo by Ken Levinson

By John DeSio

The history of psychology studies at Fordham, as well as the University’s significant role in the break-up of one of the field’s most notable student-mentor relationships, were explored on Sept. 27 at the Department of Psychology’s 75th Anniversary Celebration.

The event, titled “History of Psychology in New York: Exceptional Place, Exceptional People,” featured lectures on the role that New York’s people and universities, particularly Fordham, played in the development of psychology as an academic discipline. In a presentation titled, “Psychology at Fordham University: An Overview 1862-1968,” Mark Mattson, Ph.D., associate professor and associate chair for undergraduate studies at the Lincoln Center campus, delved into the early history of the subject at Fordham, charting how the University’s psychology department grew out of other subjects to become its own force.

In another presentation, titled, “Shall We Believe in God or Freud? The 1912 Fordham Lectures and Their Role in Jung’s Break with Psychoanalysis,” Eugene Taylor, Ph.D., a faculty member at the Saybrook Graduate School and Harvard Medical School, discussed the role Fordham played in the break between Sigmund Freud and his student, Carl Jung, following a series of nine lectures Jung gave at the University’s medical college during a visit in 1912.

In a mostly historical presentation, Mattson outlined the genesis of the psychology department—from the introduction of a course in mental philosophy in 1862 at what was then known as St. John’s College through the end of William C. Bier’s, S.J., service as department chair and the beginning of Anne Anastasi’s in 1968.

His presentation discussed some of the most interesting notes in the program’s history, such as the location of the University’s graduate programs in Manhattan’s Woolworth Building during the early 20th century and the brief period when the program lost accreditation for lack of appropriate space in 1935.

The University’s psychology department was founded in 1933, said Mattson, dealing with the subjects of speculative psychology, critical and historical psychology, experimental psychology and applied psychology. He also pointed out that the founders of the department did not come from the field. Instead, leaders of the University’s departments of education and philosophy, as well as the School of Sociology and Social Services, would join to make up the core of the new department.

“The founders of this department all came from other departments at Fordham,” Mattson said. “They were not hired for this department.”

Mattson also noted that the University’s psychology program was unique in how it came to be. While most academic departments evolve from the undergraduate program to the graduate, the opposite was true at Fordham. After building a successful psychology graduate program, the University then chose to expand its undergraduate offerings in 1939 under chair Robert T. Rock. Mattson also discussed the significance of psychology research at Fordham, particularly the work of Walter G. Summers, S.J., in the development of polygraph technology, more commonly referred to as the lie detector test.

In his own presentation, Taylor discussed the irreparable rift that grew between Freud and Jung following Jung’s lectures at Fordham. Jung had been seen as the heir apparent to Freud’s mantle as the world’s premier psychoanalyst. The two men had been fast friends since they met in 1907, when they shared a 13-hour discussion of life and each other’s work, a relationship that remained strong until after the Fordham lectures. Freud and Jung disagreed on the meaning of libido, with Freud arguing the term was exclusively sexual while Jung felt it carried a deeper meaning within the spiritual life.

“I’d like to talk this morning about nine days that shook the world,” said Taylor at the start of his lecture, emphasizing the importance of the break and the ripple effect it had on the world of psychology.

Though the two men had shared their disagreements before, and Jung’s stance was no surprise to Freud, the substance of the Fordham lectures was recorded and published for the world to see as The Theory of Psychoanalysis.

“Freud never heard anything at the end that he didn’t hear at the beginning,” Taylor said.

The public disagreement led to the rift between the two men, and their relationship strained and eventually fell apart.

“The sin,” said Taylor, noting that Freud was familiar with Jung’s own theories on libido, “was that their differences ended up in print.”

Taylor closed his presentation by noting that Jung had not come to New York and Fordham to publicly disagree with his mentor and ignite a firestorm in the field. Rather, a close examination of Jung’s work reveals that his time in New York and his Fordham lectures were intended as a coming out party of sorts, in which he would announce to the world his claim to the title of Freud’s successor.

”In other words, his point was not to break with Freud, but was to prepare himself for his ascension,” Taylor said.

More Top Stories in this issue:

Return to Top Stories index

Return to Inside Fordham home page

Copyright © 2008, Fordham University.

Site  | Directories
Submit Search Request