Reprinted from the Proceedings, 80th Annual Convention, APA, 1972, pp 775-776.


San Francisco State College

Edmund Clark Sanford, a prominent early psychologist, attracts little or no attention from historians of psychology. He is not among America's front rank of greats, but he is among that first group of full-time professional psychologists who made substantitive contributions to the new psychology. As a student colleague, Sanford was closely associated with G. Stanley Hall of Clark University. They both died nearly a half century ago. At that time, Titchener (1925) wrote Sanford's memoirs, outlining the dual side, scientific-poetic, of Sanford and indicating his place in history. The present paper attempts to highlight the earlier California background and to emphasize the poetic and literary side of Sanford which was shared with and encouraged by his earlier friends.


Sanford's place in history is secured by his prominence in the early institutionalization of psychology. He was one of those 15 persons, about whom all authorities agree, who was present at the founding meeting of the American Psychological Association in 1892. He was, in 1902, the eleventh President of the American Psychological Association, elected at the end of the Association's first decade. The first 10 pesidents included psychology's greats-Hall, James, and Cattell. But the others were not all psychologists; some were philosophers or administrators. Sanford was young enough to have got his start in the new science, and lie was old enough to make significant contributions.

Sanford was one of the first psychologists from the West Coast. Josiah Royce, also from California and older, was primarily a philosopher, not a psychologist. Sanford, on the other hand, was at Berkeley when psychology meetings began there, he took a doctorate under Hall at Johns Hopkins, he assisted with the new American Journal of Psychology, and he accompanied Hall to the newly founded Clark University where he organized the psychological laboratory.

Edmund Sanford, born in Oakland, California, on November 10, 1859, was the son of Edmund Philo Sanford. The Sanfords were early Connecticut settlers of English stock, and Sanford's father moved, at the time of the Gold Rush, from Boston to San Francisco. There he joined the wholesale drug business, met Jane Clark, sister of a local physician, and moved to Oakland, where he became the sole druggist and where Edmund was born. Edmund's mother, Jane Eliza Clark, was also from a long line of Connecticut Yankees who moved to San Francisco during the middle of the nineteenth century. Her sister was the mother of another West Coast psychologist, Milicent Shinn, author of the Biography of a Baby.

Sanford's personality was that of both poet and scientist. Thorndike (1928) described him as "sweetspirited Sanford [p. 1521." Burnham (1925) lists Sanford's virtues as follows: thorough, humanistic, scholarly, sincere, sympathetic fellow student, and, "in spite of serious physical defect, his active mindedness was heroic [p. 61

In high school, Sanford suffered two serious illnesses typhoid fever and inflammation of the brain. At Clark University, a severe attack of rheumatic fever probably affected his heart. His sister recalls that lie was frequently called "lazy." Sanford's always poor health may have precluded the kind of aggressiveness necessary for extensive publication and for the argumentation characteristic of psychologists of that day (Boring, 1950).


Edmund graduated from Oakland High School in 1879. The school, organized 10 yr. earlier, had almost doubled by the time he graduated. Edward Rowland Sill, the American poet, had come west a few years earlier to be principal and to develop the high school. But it was at the University of California, as Chairman of the English Department, that Sill later had more than passing influence on the young Sanford.

After graduating from high school, Edmund entered the University. His interest in literature and poetry is reflected by college activities reported in University documents.' Sanford represented the sophomore class on Charter Day by delivering an essay on "Norse mythology." The school newspaper during his junior year printed characterizations of each class member, stating that "Sanford worked with the college verses." During his senior year he was elected Class Day poet. Sanford was admittedly influenced by the young poet, Edward Rowland Sill, who was enormously popular for his personal warmth as well as for his philosophy of life. Sanford seemed more interested in description than in theory, in history rather than in fiction. Even Titchener (1925) was unsuccessful in his attempts to convert Sanford from a singular preference for biographies to an interest in reading fiction.

There were other poetic-minded psychologists like Lotze, Hall, Royce, and Shinn, who either directly or indirectly influenced Sanford. Josiah Royce, who studied with Lotze in Gottingen in 1875, returned to California at the invitation of Sill, and helped organize the Psychology Club while Sanford was there. G. Stanley Hall, who supervised Sanford's graduate work, employed Sanford for the new Clark University. Starbuck is quoted as saying, "Hall is the poet psychologist [Thorndike, 1928, p. 1521 ." And Milicent Shinn, Sanford's cousin and an early American developmental psychologist, encouraged promising young writers and poets to publish in the Overland Monthly, a West Coast literary magazine for which she was editor. The poems of Sill, Sanford, Shinn, and Royce were all published while Shinn was editor.

Sanford remained a bachelor until age 42 when, as professor at Clark, he returned to California to marry a high school and college classmate, Florence Bartling. Florence had been active in college literary and journalistic activities and wrote a column reviewing events at other universities. After graduation, she taught English in several California high schools before they were married on December 26, 1901.


After graduation, Sanford taught classics and mathematics at Oahu College, Honolulu, until 1885. His original intention to study medicine was replaced by a developing interest in education at the time he enrolled in Johns Hopkins (Titchener, 1925). In 1887, as a Fellow at Hopkins, Hall encouraged Sanford (1887) to publish a paper on a deaf and blind girl who had suffered from scarlet fever at the age of 2 and was left with her senses and learning capacity considerably diminished.

In 1888, Sanford received his PhD degree, was made an instructor in psychology, and assisted Hall in founding the American Journal of Psychology. Hall left in the summer of 1888 to visit other institutions of higher learning in Europe in preparation for heading the newly founded Clark University. During his absence, Sanford served as Acting Editor of the newly founded Journal; in 1895 he became an Associate Editor of the Journal.

Sanford accompanied Hall to Clark University and supervised the founding of the psychological laboratory there. Among the courses he taught was one in the history of science, reflecting his secondary interest in the history of philosophy. His primary interest was in what may be considered the first laboratory course in psychology. For this course, he wrote a manual, A Course in Experimental Psychology (Sanford, 1897), which was widely used throughout the country. These laboratory demonstrations were published in installments- first, the six chapters of Part I and then three more chapters; but a promised Part 2 never materialized. The book contained several hundred demonstrations, each describing appropriate apparatus, experiences of the subject, and some discussion of the psychological or physiological relevance of the phenomenon. There was little interpretation and no systematization.

The manual included chapters with the following titles: (a) Dermal Senses; (b) Kinesthetic; (c) Taste and Smell; (d) Hearing; (e) Vision; (f) Light and Color; (g) Visual Perception and Space and Motion; (h) Weber's Law; and (i) Apparatus. Sanford's book was a landmark in experimental psychology, as Titchener (1925) suggested in 1901 when he stated:

Sanford loved mechanical work and he was, as Titchener called him, a "true laboratory man." He was "never happier than when 'playing in the shop.' (p. 164) ." He built a telescope and lie ground the necessary lenses himself. He constructed a vernier chronoscope, and this won him international recognition.

Sanford was helpful ill assisting Colleagues. He taught Mary Calkins her laboratory work in 1890, and he started her on dream research. Calkins, who was credited with founding the laboratory at Wellesley, states that the official forming of the laboratory was her responsibility, but that the workers at Wellesley credited Sanford because of his guidance in ordering equipment from Europe and in designing a chronoscope which was locally built (Murchison, 1961 ).

Sanford, as head of the laboratory and later chairman of the department, assisted a number of prominent psychologists who wrote their theses under him. The students included W. S. Small, 1900; F. Kuhlmann, 1904; Terman, 1906; Gesell, 1906; Fryer, 1923.

Clark University was founded for graduate education, but in 1902 an undergraduate school, Clark College, was established, and in 1909 Sanford became its second president, the same year that Hall brought Freud and Jung to Clark University. In 1920, Clark had not more than 20 members of the teaching and research staff and I I professors, but only 75 graduate students. The largest department could boast 18 students; the smallest department had only 5. The trustees of Clark proceeded to institute a "new policy"- to develop an academic field which would make Clark competitive with other universities, and thereby attract more students in order to defray the mounting costs (American Association of University Professors, 1924). The trustees decided on geography and Wallace Atwood, a famous geologist from Harvard. The departments which did not relate to or support geography received less support; other fields were expanded. Clark University then shifted from Hall and psychology to Atwood and geography. In the shift, Hall resigned; and Sanford followed to permit the University to unite under one head (Titchener, 1925). Sanford returned to his teaching and to the administrative work as head of the department of psychology.

Four years later, G. Stanley Hall died. A few months after that, on November 22, 1924, Sanford was stricken suddenly in Boston and also died. He had received a ScD in 1909 from Hobart College; an LLD in 1912 from his alma mater, the University of California; and an LLD in 1924 from Clark University.

'The University documents referred to in this paper were obtained through the courtesy of the archivist, J. R. K. Kantor, and the Bancroft Library at the University of California, where the documents are on file.


American Association of University Professors. Report on Clark University. Bulletin, 1924, X(6), 40-79.
Boring, E. G. A history of experimental psychology. (2nd ed.) New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1950.
Burnham, W. H. Edmund C. Sanford: Memorial article. Pedagogical Seminary and Journal of Genetic Psychology, March 1925.
Murchison, C. A. A history of psychology in autobiography. New York: Russell & Russell, 1961.
Sanford, E. Writings of Laura Bridgman. San Francisco: Overland Monthly, 1887.
Sanford, E. C. A course in experimental psychology. Boston: Heath, 1897.
Thorndike, E. L. Biographical memoir of Granville Stanley Hall, 1846-1924. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences, 1928. Titchener, E. B. Edmund Clark Sanford, 1859-1924. American Journal of Psychology, 1925, 36, 157-170.