Wilhelm Max Wundt (August 16, 1832-August 31, 1920), German physiologist and psychologist, is generally acknowledged as the founder of experimental psychology. His chief method of investigation was introspection; he asked subjects to look inwards and then describe how they saw their minds as functioning. Special training was supposed to make them more complete and careful in their observations, and to prevent them from interpreting their own minds too much. This experimental introspection was in contrast to what had been called psychology until then, a branch of philosophy where people introspected themselves, rather than being studied by a psychologist.

Wundt subscribed to a "psycho-physical parallelism", which was supposed to stand above both materialism and idealism. His epistemology was an eclectic mixture of the ideas of Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Immanuel Kant, and Hegel.

Wundt's life and works

After graduating in medicine from the University of Heidelberg in 1856, Wundt studied briefly with Johannes Müller before joining the University of Heidelberg, where he became an assistant to the physicist and physiologist Hermann von Helmholtz in 1858. There he wrote Contributions to the Theory of Sense Perception (1858-62).

It was during this period that Wundt offered the first course ever taught in scientific psychology, stressing the use of experimental methods drawn from the natural sciences. His lectures on psychology were published as Lectures on the Mind of Humans and Animals (1863). He was promoted to Assistant Professor of Physiology in 1864.

Bypassed in 1871 for the appointment to succeed Helmholtz, Wundt applied himself to writing a work that came to be one of the most important in the history of psychology, Principles of Physiological Psychology (1874). The Principles advanced a system of psychology that sought to investigate the immediate experiences of consciousness, including sensations, feelings, volitions, apperception, and ideas.

In 1875 he took up a position at the University of Leipzig where, in 1879, he established the first psychological laboratory in the world. Two years later he founded a journal of psychology, Philosophical Studies.

Several of Wundt's students became eminent psychologists in their own right. These include James McKeen Cattell, the first professor of psychology in the United States, and Charles Spearman, the English psychologist who developed the two-factor theory of intelligence.

Wundt died in 1920, having completed his 10-volume masterwork, Völkerpsychologie (social psychology).