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Founder of the world’s first institute of psychology died 100 years ago
On 31 August it will be exactly 100 years since the death of Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt (1832-1920). In 1879, after being appointed professor of philosophy at Leipzig University, Wundt founded the world’s first university institute of psychology. Subject textbooks describe the founding of this institute as the birth of modern scientific psychology. The Institute will commemorate him with a ceremony.
An outstanding philosopher who was already compared to Aristotle and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz during his lifetime was William Maximilian Wundt , born in 1832 in Neckerau near Mannheim. He studied medicine and completed his habilitation in Heidelberg in 1857. After holding various positions in Germany and abroad, he was finally appointed professor of philosophy at Leipzig University in 1875. Wundt worked here until 1917.
At that time, Leipzig was the perfect place for Wilhelm Wundt, explains Professor Jörg Jescheniak, the director of Leipzig’s Institute of Psychology - Wilhelm Wundt: “In the 19th century, the trade fair city was a leading commercial centre, and at the same time a city of culture, books and publishing, the bourgeoisie and academia. His newly founded Psychologisches Institut soon attracted large numbers of staff and students, who in turn became leading international figures in psychological schools of thought and sub-disciplines. This was a boon for the city of Leipzig and of course also for our university,” said Jescheniak. Wundt made a significant contribution to the academic establishment of a discipline which today is highly influential not only through basic research in a wide variety of fields, but above all through practical work in many fields of application. These include psychological psychotherapy and counselling, personnel selection and development, and school psychology.
Wundt’s unique significance as the founder of modern scientific psychology was already acknowledged with a number of high-ranking honours during his own lifetime. These included honorary doctorates and memberships of the universities of Budapest, Göttingen, Leipzig and Moscow, and numerous honorary memberships in international scientific societies and academies. Today, original equipment, furniture and documents from the early days of the Institute are kept in a collection in a special memorial room, where they are regularly shown to visitors from all over the world.
Leipzig University’s Institute of Psychology will honour Wilhelm Wundt in a ceremony at 5pm on 31 August at 5pm. The event will take place at the “Wundt oak tree” in Clara Zetkin Park. Among others, Wundt expert Professor Erich Schröger from the Institute of Psychology will talk about the life and work of the founder of modern scientific psychology. A few months before Wundt’s death, at the behest of the city of Leipzig, this oak tree was planted with a wooden plaque in honour of Wundt, who was an honorary citizen of the city. This plaque was lost in the post-war years and will now be replaced by a metal plaque at the ceremony. Members of the press are welcome to attend the event.