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Department of Psychology





The Development of Psychology at Cambridge

1875 James Ward presents his fellowship dissertation, 'The Relationship of Physiology and Psychology' to Trinity College.

1877 James Ward proposes that a laboratory should be established in Cambridge to study psychophysics and makes a request to the University, along with John Venn, for funds to purchase psychophysical apparatus.  They make further unsuccessful applications to the University in 1879, 1886 and 1888.

1891 The University's General Board grants £50, "...for the purpose of instruments needed for research and demonstrations in psychophysics."

1897 W.H.R. Rivers appointed University Lecturer in Physiological and Experimental Psychology.

1899 James Ward writes in a letter to Henry Sidgwick that he believes experimental psychology 'deserves a Reader and requires a Laboratory and funds for its maintenance.'

1903 Psychology acquires 16 Mill Lane, Cambridge.

1907 Charles S. Myers is appointed to a newly created Lectureship in Experimental Psychology.

1912 A psychological laboratory is completed on the Downing Site and Charles S. Myers is appointed its Director. This is the first custom-built experimental psychology laboratory in England and the funds for its creation come largely from the efforts of Charles S. Myers.

1913 The Cambridge Psychological Laboratory is formally opened by the Vice-Chancellor on May 15th (full article here).

1922 Frederic C. Bartlett is appointed Reader in Experimental Psychology and Director of the Psychological Laboratory.

1931 Frederic C. Bartlett becomes the first Professor of Experimental Psychology at Cambridge.

1937 Alice W. Heim is admitted to the BA.  In 1940 she is approved for the title of the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. The title of her dissertation is 'A vocational investigation of some of the factors affecting the early careers of elementary school boys'.

1939 Brenda Milner receives the BA. As a result of World War II, much of the work of the Cambridge Psychological Laboratory, under Bartlett's leadership, is diverted almost overnight to applied research in the selection of aircrew.

1944 The Applied Psychology Unit is established at the Psychological Laboratory in Cambridge.

1952 Oliver L. Zangwill is elected to Chair of Experimental Psychology.

1956 Anne Treisman receives the BA.

1960 A new four-story state-of-the-art Psychological Laboratory is built on the Downing Site.

1961 Susan Iversen receives the BA.  She goes on to receive the MA and the PhD in 1966, and the Doctor of Science in 1994.

1970 A new Tripos in Social and Political Sciences, which includes psychology, is launched, meaning that psychology is now being taught in two Schools of the University of Cambridge.  

1981 Nicholas J. Mackintosh is elected to Chair of Experimental Psychology.

2002 Trevor W. Robbins is elected to Chair of Experimental Psychology.

2004 The Faculty of Social and Political Sciences is reorganized into departments and the Department of Social and Developmental Psychology is established, with Dr Gerard Duveen as Head of Department.

2006 Michael Lamb is elected Head of Department of Social and Developmental Psychology.

2012 The Department of Experimental Psychology and Division Social and Developmental Psychology merge to form a unified Department of Psychology in the School of the Biological Sciences, with Professor Trevor W. Robbins as Head of Department.

2013 A new Tripos in Psychological and Behavioural Sciences is launched here.

2017 Mark Johnson is elected to Chair of Experimental Psychology and Head of Department.











*Videos are available for Psychology staff CRSID only.



One hundred years ago: 4th August 2014 (full article here)

One hundred years ago: 17th October 2014 (full article here)

One hundred years ago: 21st November 2014 (full article here)

One hundred years ago: 13th February 2015 (full article here)



Professor Nicholas J. Mackintosh, FRS