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Cambridge, England 1887-1937


Citation: Bartlett, F.C. (1937). 'Cambridge, England, 1887-1937', American Journal of Psychology 50: 97-110.


I cannot begin this article without expressing, on behalf of British psychologists, our deep sense of indebtedness to The American Journal of Psychology, and our admiration for the way in which it has been conducted. The Laboratory from which I write has the good fortune to possess the whole series of its fifty years of publication. The volumes have been well and truly used. Some of them contain the pencilled annotations of generations of approving or of critical students. Again and again the articles have been the inspiration of original investigations. This JOURNAL, with its readiness to keep open its pages for the free discussion of all manner of different views, and its unfailing and continued interest in every phase of human life and experience, has done more than can readily be recorded for the devekpment of psychology in England.

I have wondered many times how I could best contribute to the Jubilee volume, and that I have finally decided to attempt to write a history of psychology in the English Cambridge is partly because it is the story of psychological growth which I know best, partly because it is a record of events and people which has never yet been fully told in public, and partly because the fifty years which are now being celebrated are precisely the period which very nearly covers the whole narrative of Cambridge psychology.

As a matter of fact it is necessary to go a little further back than fifty years for the beginnings. In 1875 James Ward, later to become Professor of Mental Philosophy in the University, presented a dissertation for a Fellowship at Trinity College. It was an essay on The Relation of Physiology and Psychology. Later it was privately printed, and one of my cherished possessions is the somewhat tattered copy which was Ward's own. The dissertation was an expository and critical study of experimental psychophysics as developed by Weber and Fechner. Ward used to tell how Henry Sidgwick came to him with shaking head, and said, in his rather hesitating manner: "Y-yes Ward; [98] it's n-not bad; but r-rather after the st-style of the D-D-Daily T-Tillygraph." However, it won him his Fellowship, and two years later he and Dr. Vean together proposed to the University that there should be established in Cambridge a laboratory of psychophysics. They were far ahead of Cambridge thought. There was a discussion in the Senate, but a theologically minded mathematician is said-I have never seen the actual report of the proceedings-to have aroused enthusiastic scorn by talking of these men who would insult religion by putting the human soul in a pair of scales."

If Ward could have had his way Cambridge would have built the first psychological laboratory in the world, though he, then and to the end of his long life, would stoutly have maintained that it dealt not with psychology but with psychophysics. Two years later he tried again, but with the same result. And then, in 1886, Ward published his famous article on Psychology in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. There it remained, well-known and immensely influential, yet in a way locked up, for thirty-two years. Very few off-prints were ever circulated. We have one of them at this laboratory now, interleaved, and with annotations in Ward's neat, small hand-writing. Students had to dig out his contribution from its unwieldy setting, haunting libraries to read it and making their own abstracts. It was, as everybody knows, a system of psychology, and it was based upon principles never intended to be within the reach of experimental verification or examination. But it was the first important discussion of psychology in England to pay generous and appreciative notice to a mass of experimental work, then only recently performed. It is true that when it was finished Ward tended to retire more and more into metaphysical fastnesses, and the initiative for further real development in Cambridge passed to others. But it was James Ward who first wanted to make Cambridge an active centre of psychological study, who fought the first battles against uninstructed opposition, who by his brilliant writing made people of influence think of psychology as something more than a draughty field of easy amateur investigation. Throughout his life he remained keenly interested in plans for the progress of psychology, and on the whole ready to support them, though often with reservations, and with hesitations and groanings that none who never witnessed them could appreciate.

So far all this was ahead. The notion of building a laboratory for psychology was abroad in Cambridge, but that was all. In 1879 a Classical Scholar, G. F. Stout, had arrived at St. John's College. Ward [99] attracted and held him, and in 1887, iust about the time that the first issue of The American Journal of Psychology appeared, Stout became the first Fellow of St. John's to receive honour for psychological studies. Now Ward had recruits in Cambridge: Stout, W. E. Johnson and others.

Thirteen years passed by during which, no doubt, the position was being slowly consolidated, but nothing spectacular happened.. In 1891 Ward got the University to make a grant of 50 for the purchase of apparatus for psychological purposes, and a few more similar grants were made in immediately succeeding years. Some of this apparatus still remains: a beautifully constructed Helmholtz double siren, one of the early Hipp chronoscopes, and a few odds and ends, now little but curiosities. Unfortunately most of it has been lost.

In 1897 an entirely new influence appeared on the side of psychology in Cambridge, and from this time on Ward ceased to take the lead in the changes that were to come.

Here, therefore, is the place for me to try to write something about the power and personality of James Ward.

It is difficult. Many men break all bounds of print and page and Ward was one. When I came to Cambridge he was at length free from his contract with the Encyclopaedia, and was seeing through the Press the final proofs of Psychological Principles, that book which ought to have been published thirty years before it could be. Gone were the days when he was the only, or even the predominant, psychological force on the scene. He was, indeed, uneasy and apprehensive about the more modern developments, which threatened to submerge the analytic approach by a universal application of experimental and clinical methods. I was a member of the last class for psychology that Ward ever held. It was an unforgettable experience. The class was a small one, but good, and contained several people who have since done much for psychology in this and in other lands. When Ward had doubtfully assured himself that we were worth instructing, he distributed to all of us copies of the complete proofs of his new book. He said we would take it paragraph by paragraph, and we could raise whatever questions we pleased. With simple-minded enthusiasm we made a corporate effort and arrived at lectures armed with many enquiries. Whereupon Ward sadly but firmly pointed out to us that we could not possibly have read what he had written since nearly all these questions were answered "later on." By this time his spell was upon us, as it was set upon nearly everybody who came into personal contact with him. Above everything else we desired him to talk just as [100] he liked; so we dropped our questions. At this, more sadly, and yet more firmly, he pointed out that we could not possibly have read what he had written, since hosts of unanswered questions abounded there.

After all it was a glorious class. Soon Ward was coming in, his still piercing gray eyes looking us straight in the face, then sitting down and talking as he pleased about what he pleased. Few people can talk as he did. What he said often appeared unpremeditated, and no doubt it was; but it was the fruit of long experience and profound reflection. The right words came naturally and there was no formality. How well I remember him, expounding some onomatopoeic theory of the origin of language, and himself becoming Adam in the Garden of Eden, naming the beasts as they came before him! Ward loved animals.

Once he gave me a great shock by saying: "I model my style on John Bunyan." He believed it, but nobody else would who has met Ward only in books. There the style is rather ponderous and elaborate, over latinised, and with little Greek and German tags here and there. When he talked he was racy, Anglo-Saxon, vivid, simple.

Ward was tall, spare, with magnificent forehead, eyes and nose. When you saw him you could catch the impression of inflexibility and, somewhere beneath, of an unaggressive sadness. He was, suitably with his psychological outlook, crammed full of activity. He could be brusque and say devastating things and follow them up with a disarming twinkle. They told me that I might find him dogmatic, dictatorial, intolerant, even unsympathetic. He had his views. They were often sharp and sweeping, and he did not usually resign them in, or after, argument. Dictatorial in any unhappy sense I never found him, or unwilling to take account of the other side, even though he often thought that the account, fully paid, was trifling. Unsympathetic he never was.

Most people had long forgotten that at the outset of his career Ward had done some very good physiological observations on frogs nerve. He was now alternately a little amusing and terribly irritating in the laboratory. He prowled about, up and down, ill at ease, a bit envious maybe, but far more than a bit disgusted, and inclined to rate all our problems as trivialities. Once I examined with him in a final degree examination. He turned up, armed with knitting needles and ping-pong balls and required the unfortunate candidates, before his eagle and impatient gaze, to demonstrate the operation of the eye muscles. Most of them fumbled and fumbled-for knitting needles do not go easily into ping-pong balls-but one or two with judgment [101] resigned their task to him and he got so happy and interested in showing them how to answer his own question that he ended up by thinking them to be quite good!

To me he was marvellously kind. Every step I took towards knowing him better was a step towards deeper respect and admiration. "You and I," he said to me several times, "are going different ways." I am afraid it was true. He was old then, eighty and more. Now, when I look back, I think that there are not many men of that age who still are "going" anywhere. But Ward was, to the day of his death.

I must return to the story of events. First we must go back once more to 1886. In that year Dr. J. McKeen Cattell, fresh from his work at Leipsic, came to Cambridge and entered St. John's College as a Fellow Commoner. He carried out experiments on colour vision in the Physics Department, where Clerk Maxwell was reigning, and gave some lectures on the new science of experimental psychology. It is not clear that any further direct developments proceeded from this, but at least a new set of people began to think of psychology with some respect. At St. John's Cattell produced a great impression, so that many stories still pass round concerning him and his activities. One of these is worth putting on record.

After the annual Fellowship election at St. John's it is the custom to hold a College feast. Feasts in Cambridge are, in general, meant to be just feasts, and there is very little speechifying. But on this occasion, after dinner, the Master of the College very briefly, and usually with a kind of premeditated informality, introduces the New Fellows to the Old and to their guests. When I was elected, the late Master, Sir Robert Forsyth Scott, had to find something to say. This is how he did it: "And now we come to Mr. Bartlett, who is a psychologist. A good many years ago an American, Dr. J. M. Cattell, who afterwards became a Professor of Psychology, entered the College as a Fellow Commoner. One night after dinner we all came up as usual to the Combination Room. There was Cattell, gazing earnestly out of a window. Presently we heard him say 'By Jove, that's a pretty girl going through the Court.' So we all crowded to the window to see. There was no girl; and 'That,' said Cattell, 'was a psychological experiment'.

The next most effective step, however, was taken not by philosophers, or by physicists, but by physiologists. Thus began an association which, though it was soon briefly intermitted, later still became closer, and, let it be hoped, will remain intimate for all time. In 1897 Sir [102] Michael Foster was Professor of Physiology at Cambridge. Through him a Lectureship was established in Experimental Psychology and the Physiology of the Senses, and Dr. W. H. R. Rivers was asked to accept it. To the immense good fortune of Cambridge he did. There was still opposition, but it was more vocal than serious. How many times have I heard Rivers, spectacles waving in the air, his face lit by his transforming smile, tell how, in Senatorial discussion, an ancient orator described him as a "Ridiculous Superfluity"!

At length Cambridge had its psychological laboratory: one room in the old Physiological Department. There a few students worked hard at the special senses, especially at vision, at various elaborations of psychophysical method-for all his life Rivers retained a profound belief in the value of these as a mode of training-and did some study of fatigue and drugs. In this single room a student who was to play by far the greatest part in the firm establishment of psychology at Cambridge-C. S. Myers-began his life work.

For four years Rivers continued thus, and then, stimulated by him and others, the Moral Science Board stretched out a rather timid and tentative hand again. They "called the attention of the Senate to the need for more adequate accommodation for the teaching of Experimental Psychology," and recommended that a payment of 35 per annum for two years be made to the Museums and Lecture Room Syndicate "in consideration of the assignment of certain rooms in a building in St. Tibbs Row as a Laboratory for Experimental Psychology." The Senate, perhaps relieved to be let off so lightly, agreed, and now psychology, having escaped the initial onslaught of the theologians, was established in the odour of sanctity, though I imagine that no psychologist who worked in those dismal rooms had the faintest idea as to the identity of St. Tibbs.

This was in 1901. Meanwhile an event had happened which was destined to alter the whole course of development of psychology in Cambridge. In 1898 Haddon organised his notable anthropological expedition to the Torres Straits. With him went Rivers, Myers, and William McDougall, the last a powerful new recruit who had arrived at Cambridge in 1890, had joined St. John's, and had become the second on the roll of psychological Fellows of this College; Rivers was also and soon after elected to a Fellowship. The expedition won Rivers for Anthropology, and confirmed Myers in his psychological interests. Both returned to England in 1899, Myers to continue medical work in London for another three years and then to return to Cambridge, [102] and Rivers straight back to Cambridge, but destined for many years now to alternate between journeys into the anthropological field and periods of intense and absorbed writing up of research at the University.

In 1903 psychology made its last move but one. The Cambridge University Press owned a small cottage in Mill Lane, not far from the banks of the Cam. They kindly offered this to the psychologists, at any rate for a time. The psychologists agreed, and the University undertook to make an annual grant of 50 for apparatus and expenses. Thither Rivers, Myers and their students moved, and there, for thirteen years, the psychologists of Cambridge worked.

The cottage is now no more. It has been absorbed by the growing demands of the University Press. Only a few photographs remain. Even from these one can catch a little of the atmosphere, "damp, dark and ill-ventilated," of 16 Mill Lane. Nevertheless the new laboratory was full of enthusiastic workers. A glance through some of the earlier volumes of The British Journal of Psychology, which Rivers, Myers and Ward established in 1904, will show what a lot of work, and what good work, was being done there. Perhaps, in the early days of scientific progress, a subject often grows all the more surely if its workers have to meet difficulties, improvise their apparatus, and rub very close shoulders one with another. It is a wonder that Behaviourism did not first grow here, instead of later and elsewhere. The river was near by. Rats abounded. Anybody could observe startle reflexes firing off in all directions. But the preoccupations in those days were with the special senses-colour- and sound-reactions in particular-with optical illusions and perceptual process, with fatigue. This was also the period of Head's and Rivers's famous experiment on the effects of nerve division, though the bulk of these investigations were carried out during weekends in Rivers's rooms at St. John's.

In 1909 Rivers resigned a part of his Lectureship, and C. S. Myers became the first University Lecturer in Cambridge whose whole duty it was to teach Experimental Psychology. For this he received a stipend of 50 a year. The little band of students increased. The cottage became more and more dilapidated. Already a dream of a laboratory specially built and equipped for the study of psychology had taken firm shape in the mind of Myers. Already, in 1907, the Special Board for Moral Science had again called the attention of the Senate "to the urgent need of more adequate accommodation for the department of Experimental Psychology." The Mill Lane cottage was being used by "fourteen undergraduate students, two advanced students, and three [103] graduates engaged in research. . . . The building is quite incapable of satisfactorily accommodating even half this number of students." In December 1908 an appeal was launched for money by the Cambridge University Association. The leadership in psychology at Cambridge had passed on to C. S. Myers.

Here, then, I must pause again and try to write my own story of W. H. R. Rivers. It is baffling task. There were two Rivers, the pre-War and the post-War; the pre-War Rivers whose ways of life and thought, whose hopes and fears not many people knew; the post-War Rivers who was here there and everywhere, the heart and spirit of all manner of schemes, writing and working in a feverish hurry, and who, with no official position in the University whatsoever, exercised, perhaps, a more profound influence upon many phases of undergraduate life than any other single person has ever done.

I came to Cambridge in 1909, a few years older than the average undergraduate. No very specialised training was behind me. I was unsure what to do. Like many another in that state of mind I had a hankering after the "big" thing-the Universe and all its problems. First I would do some philosophy, but afterwards? Perhaps more philosophy, or medicine, or psychology of the experimental sort, or anthropology. I went to St. John's. I had read Rivers's lectures on Kinship and Social Organisation, and had tried, but failed-I must confess that I have never succeeded since-to read his study of the Todas. He had then the somewhat odd post of Director of Moral Science students in the College. A Director was supposed to see his students twice a term, at the beginning to tell them what lectures to attend; at the end to shake them by the hand. At that time of his life Rivers was not always inclined-quite rightly-to take these duties, such as they were, very seriously. However on this occasion I received a note from him, the first of many that were to come in his almost incredibly illegible handwriting, asking me to call on him one day at tea time.

At Cambridge you knock and enter. The room was beautiful, with its brown panelled walls; but nothing else was. It was in an awful muddle, with books and papers and odds and ends of anthropological trophies all over the place. There was a large table in the middle, with a fluffy cloth, and books piled up on it. Then Rivers came out of his inner study, and somehow at once the room became alive, and the things in it were right after all. There he was, rather tall, trim, quick and light in his movements, in navy blue. You got a swift impression of straight, broad shoulders and a jutting chin, and at once of a tre- [105] mendously alert mind. He shook hands, told me to sit down, sat down himself, said that no doubt I knew what I wanted and how to get it, took off his spectacles, swept his hand across his eyes with perhaps the most familiar of all his gestures, and waited. We did not talk very much at first. He was like a man suddenly come back from somewhere into a world which on the whole he did not like very much. Tea came up from the College Kitchen. He poured me out a very strong cup, snorted audibly when I had little milk and no sugar, and contented himself with sweetened milk and water. I had a bit or two of rather stale bread and butter and a piece of Madeira cake that might almost as well have been made of sawdust. These things are not so trivial as they look. They were part of Rivers at that time, just as the other, and the really vital part of him was the History of Melanesian Society. Somehow it came out that I had read a little anthropology, ahd even that I had heard of Cross-cousin Marriage and the Classificatory System. River's stammer disappeared. The table was cleared of a book or two. For a brief time we pored over complicated diagrams of relationship. Only for a short time: the History was urgent, and out I came again, suddenly to realise that I had been treated, not as an undergraduate, but as an equal.

That was River's way, then and later. It was a great part of his power over men, especially young men. It was not the fruit of judgment. On the whole Rivers had not good judgment about people. Sometimes I think he had no judgment about people at all. When he met you he just believed that you were going to be good, and, if you had it in you, you were vastly more likely to be. If you had not, he found it out, sooner or later, and with his rueful but uncompromising smile he dropped you.

At that time, when he was not away on one of his many expeditions, he worked. He did not drink tea, or coffee, or alcohol. He did not smoke. Sometimes he went up the river, shoving a canoe, as happy as if he was in Melanesia. But he had very few relaxations, and the brown men of the tropic seas were his real world. Often he said to me, "Whatever you do don't let Cambridge get hold of you. They'll try to. But don't get muddled up with administration." He told me that if I wanted to be an anthropologist I must be a psychologist first, and especially I must "know the psychophysical methods."

The History of Melanesian Society was finished. The piles of proofs were through the Press. The two large volumes appeared. The War came. Rivers, back with a bang to psychology and to medicine, went one way and I another. I saw a little of him from time to time during those [106] years; enough to realise that a change had come. How great a change I never knew till the War was over and we were both back at Cambridge.

He was into everything. Gone was caution. He laid down the law, as the Public Orator once privately remarked, "like Moses;" but as a rule he did not get as upset as Moses might have done if you failed to accept it. He gave lectures everywhere, writing them all out in a tremendous hurry, reading them with a force that mostly carried conviction. He would dash in at all sorts of times with new ideas. Once, in the early morning, he came in, half-dressed, to me, half-dressed, and I had forthwith to sign a document recording certain events that had happened during the night which might, he thought, do something to prove telepathy; but they never did. He abounded in schemes. He said to me often that his real work was finished, and that he would just "let out" ideas and leave them to live or to die. He flung his old advice about not getting mixed up in administration violently behind him. He was elected on the Council, the primary administrative body of the College. He ran the College Book Club. The College invented for him a brand new post called "Praelector in Natural Science Studies," and left it to him to do about it as he pleased. His solution was to get to know personally every science man in the College, and many in other Colleges also. They flocked to his rooms and told him all manner of difficulties which, with a kind of enthusiastic patience, he frequently melted away. His Sunday breakfasts for undergraduates became famous. He founded and ran a new University Society, the Socratics, and brought to it many eminent contemporary novelists, poets and artists. All this time he had no University post. Nevertheless he lectured in Cambridge more than ever before, and crowds came to hear him, hanging upon his words.

All his life he had worked as if driven by some internal urgency, formerly upon the single, absorbing problem of the period, but now in a diffused and mutiple way that must have been intensely tiring. Again and again, coming suddenly in on him, I found him deeply weary. Then, in a moment or two, off would come his spectacles, up would go the hand, in the old, familiar way, across his eyes, as if he brushed all his weariness aside; and he would be alert and confident and full of optimism again. Why, I wondered, this terrific, this insistent hurry?

Then, on a lovely late spring day in 1922, I got the answer. On Saturday, June 3, I went to College, intent on a game of some sort. I met Rivers on the steps of the New Court. He was gay, cheerful, off for one of his quick walks of those days. Near midday on Monday I was passing [107] St. John's and saw the flag at half-mast. I called at the Porter's Lodge. They said: "Dr. Rivers is dead."

Sightseers were everywhere among the Cambridge Colleges, gazing, joking, laughing; the sun was brilliant; the spring colours were shining. To me, and to many more, it all seemed silly, irrelevant, far away: Rivers was dead. Afterwards I knew that it could have happened at any time, and so he must, at all costs, year by year, do his work before it was too late.

He was a great man. We met him and had no doubt of it. He needed contact to communicate his greatness, which lived in him, and would not wholly go into any other form than himself.

In 1908 the appeal for money was sent out. In 1911 the foundation-stone of the new psychological laboratory was laid. The great bulk of the money had been secured by Myers, and most of it came from his relations and from himself. The Drapers Company of London had given a magnificent benefaction to establish a new physiological laboratory about the same time, and by good-will and great good fortune, they and Professor Langley agreed that the psychology building should become a wing of physiology, but with complete independence as regards internal administration. Two years later the laboratory was formally opened. The persistent, patient and yet brilliant work of many years had reached its partial reward. Only those who have been closely identified with it since can realise the very remarkable foresight with which the building had been planned.

Teaching and research in the new quarters had already begun, and again it was Dr. Myers who organised the former and stimulated the latter. He now became the (unpaid) Director of the Cambridge Psychological Laboratory, and the University provided one Assistant and a workshop mechanic. Myers himself shared an elementary course with Dr. G. Dawes Hicks, and secured Cyril Burt to help him with practical classes. He did nearly all the advanced work himself, with some help now and then from Rivers.

Everything seemed set for the happiest of futures, and then came the War. Myers immediately volunteered for active service, was given a Commission in the R.A.M.C., and went to France. Nearly all of the rest of us went our several ways.

When the War was over psychology had, in a way, to be begun afresh in Cambridge. Undoubtedly the position was easier, for not only had psychologists just proved themselves to be of some use in a crisis, but there were the laboratory and the nucleus of a good teaching [108] staff. The university made a Readership in Experimental Psychology for Dr. Myers, who thereby received a part, but by no means all, of the recognition he deserved. He and Dr. Rivers succeeded in establishing a Diploma in Psychological Medicine, the necessary money coming in the main, in both cases, from the Medical Grants Fund. First Dr. Prideaux, and later, Dr. J. P. Lowson, now a Professor at Brisbane, came to take over the Medical teaching. About this time also the University agreed to the appointment of an official Demonstrator. For a while, Bernard Muscio, who became Professor of Philosophy at Sydney, and to the grief of all who knew him, died before half his work was done, occupied this post.

Myers knew well that to live psychology must grow. He desired to bring it into closer touch with a wider sphere of activity outside the University. In particular he saw clearly great problems of industrial and social organization in the solution of which psychology must play its intimate part. Neither by geographical position nor by tradition was Cambridge the best place for this kind of development. Moreover no man can go forever patiently at the pace of others, when that pace is very much slower than his own. Myers came back, lectured again, encouraged every possible line of research and put heart into us all. But, as time went on, more and more a part of his mind was elsewhere. He would not leave till everything that could be was well and firmly established, even though what could be was far indeed from what he knew might be. The time came, however, in 1922, and the fact that when he went it was left to me to preserve, and if possible to expand, what he had built-this also was due, not only to the wise and generous guidance which he and others had given me, but immediately to his and to Rivers's great personal influence.

The rest of the story can be told swiftly. In 1921-2, before Myers left and before Rivers died, they had made sure of the establishment of a University Lectureship in Psychopathology. To this, in 1923, Dr. J. T. MacCurdy was appointed.

After the War, a Royal Commission enquired into teaching, research and administration at Oxford and Cambridge. They introduced into Cambridge a system by which all subjects taught were organized into Faculties, and the Psychological Laboratory was at length placed where it properly belonged, with Physiology, Biochemistry and Pathology, as one of a group of "biological sciences." This was in 1926. Very nearly all the subsequent changes have grown out of this one. At the same time a full Lectureship in Psychology was established and was given to Dr. [109] H. Banister. More and more students came. The research work of the Department grew year by year. Working relationships with other interested Departments became always closer. In 1931 the University decided that it was time to establish a Chair of Experimental Psychology. All this time the Demonstratorship had been maintained. The duties of the Demonstrator became heavier and more responsible, and in 1933, Mr. G. C. Grindley, who was the acting Demonstrator at that that time, became the third full Lecturer at the Laboratory.

Although, since 1926, the Department of Experimental Psychology has, for all purposes of administration and control, ranked with the biological sciences, it is only during the last two years that it has found a place in the Cambridge Natural Science Tripos. It has for many years had its own Part II Tripos, as a section of the Moral Science Honours Degree Examinations; it has, since pre-War days, been one of the subjects which can be offered for the Ordinary BA. Degree. In 1935 the Natural Sciences Committee in Cambridge recommended that "Psychology and Physiology" should be treated as a joint subject for the Natural Science Tripos, Part II, and this recommendation was accepted. The story of this direction of growth is not finished yet: further changes are bound to come.

Even before the War, the Industrial Health Research Board which had been established by the British Government, had come into close working relationship with research at Cambridge. When, later, it was placed under the control of the Medical Research Council the relation continued and, through various other committees of the Council, became more extensive. The development of Cambridge as a centre for psychological research has, in fact, been tremendously stimulated by the Medical Research Council, and many of the students who have from time to time received financial help from this body are now established in University posts in various parts of England and Scotland. In 1935 the Medical Research Council, with the willing cooperation of the University, decided to establish in Cambridge a Readership in Industrial Psychology for one of their Senior Investigators, Mr. E. Farmer, and for Mr. E. Chambers an Assistant Directorship of Industrial Research. Already this recent development has become an important part of research and teaching in Cambridge.

The post-War period has been one of steady and continuous growth, in an atmosphere of general good-will. Once again the Laboratory has reached the limit of its existing resources. During the last two or three years it has been possible to meet some, but by no means all, of the [110] increasing demands, only through the generosity of the Professors of Physiology, Sir Joseph Barcroft, and of Pathology, Dr. H. R. Dean, who have found rooms which they could with difficulty spare in their own laboratories for research students from psychology. When the present building was completed, its South wall was left blank of windows and with jutting bricks to proclaim to all that here extension might some day be planned. The University Buildings Syndicate set aside a Southward site and have preserved it untouched since. The time has come. Once more the laboratory must grow.

Such is the story of events in fifty years of psychology at Cambridge.

Some day a different history must be written, a history of ideas explored and of research accomplished. Upon these, after all, the real health and vigour of any Department of knowledge must rest. It will be a story containing many names not mentioned in this record; of teachers, research workers and students who have been loyal to the ideals of science and have kept themselves honourably free from the fetters of any fixed, final and dogmatic systematizing. They all, without exception, looking back over fifty years of effort, would pay tribute chiefly to Ward, Rivers and Myers.

Ward had the brilliant ideas, and foresight, the catholicity of interest, the eagerness that welcomes advance. But something robbed him of the final executive drive. Rivers had the sympathy, the infectious enthusiasm, the optimism, the certainty, the power to draw love and respect. But he built with ideas and human beings rather than with more tangible materials which he found somewhat intractable to his touch. Myers had the dreams, and the power to translate them. He had more. When he went to the War he gave me the notes of his lectures. I read them and I read everything that at that time he had written and published. I knew that he had the scientific temper, the sanity, the breadth, the clarity, the insight possessed to the same degree by no other living English psychologist. What, if he had chosen to live for himself, Could he have accomplished? What would he have left undone? Psychology in Cambridge was built by all these three, and by others; but if I had to say upon whom its present position and its future possibilities most of all depended, I would, without hesitation, declare: upon C. S. Myers.


Copyright Note:

From American Journal of Psychology. Copyright 1937 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. Used with permission of the University of Illinois Press (http://www.press.uillinois.edu/journals/ajp.html).