Purdue University Department of Psychological Sciences: A Brief History

Written By: Rebecca Hoffa, rhoffa@purdue.edu

The Department of Psychological Sciences got its start in 1908 when the first psychology courses were taught in Purdue University’s Department of Education, which served the general education requirements for students who did not belong to a specific school. Lucas George Roberts, the department’s only faculty member, taught both of the psychology courses the department offered at the time: general psychology and educational psychology.

In 1916, George Clinton Brandenburg, Purdue’s first psychologist, arrived from the University of Wisconsin. This allowed a third psychology course, “General and Applied Psychology for Seniors in Engineering,” to be added, which was the University’s first industrial psychology course. In his role, Brandenburg became the first official psychology professor at Purdue.

Years later, Hermann Henry Remmers brought national prominence with him to Purdue’s psychology program in 1923. Remmers developed the first national rating scale for students to evaluate their professors. It was known universally as the “Purdue Rating Scale for Instructors,” and the pioneering work earned Remmers the title of “Father of Student Evaluation Research.”

In 1937, Frederic Butterfield Knight arrived at Purdue, tasked with conceptualizing and directing the newly created Division of Education and Applied Psychology, which did not belong to a school. One year later, Knight invited Joseph Tiffin to the University as an associate professor of industrial psychology, where he made Purdue “the hub of industrial psychology” and developed one of the most renowned PhD programs in industrial psychology in the world.

The Division of Education and Applied Psychology was eliminated in 1954, and the Department of Psychology was developed within the School of Science, Education and Humanities. It was renamed as the Department of Psychological Sciences to better encapsulate its breadth of specialties in 1972. In 2010, the Department of Psychological Sciences joined the newly created College of Health and Human Sciences.

Having grown tremendously from its small start, the Department of Psychological Sciences today is known throughout the world, consistently ranking among the top psychology programs.


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