1. William James (1842-1910), the philosopher and father of American psychology, was born in 1842 into a highly regarded family. His father was Henry James Sr., a noted theologian in his day. Ralph Waldo Emerson, the leader of the 19th century’s Transcendentalist movement, was James’ godfather.
2. His brother, Henry James, is regarded as one of the US’s greatest novelists. He penned key works such as The Portrait of a Lady (1881) and The Turn of a Screw (1898).
3. James loved to paint when he was a youth. Upon receiving an apprenticeship under William Morris Hunt in Rhode Island, his family moved back to the United States from Paris so that James could hone his blooming artistic ability. His brother, Henry, once remarked that it was likely the only time someone ever left Paris for the US to study painting.
4. Though he loved art, James’ father desired for him to become a physician. Following his father’s wishes, James studied physiology in college and graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1869, however, he never practiced medicine.
5. James suffered through many bodily issues during his life. Doctors diagnosed him with neurasthenia, a medical condition identified in the 19th and 20th centuries that had to do with one’s nervous system. Along with this issue, James often suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts.
6. His transition from medicine to philosophy and psychology resulted from “a sort of fatality,” he called it. He once remarked, “the first lecture on psychology I ever heard [was] the first I ever gave.”
7. James was one of the founders of Pragmatism. This broad philosophical ideology considers the world to be inseparable from agency within it; otherwise, a given belief about the world must be tested according to its practical application. An odd aspect of this philosophy is that the truth of any idea can never be validated.
8. As a professor at Harvard University, James became the first instructor to ever offer a psychology course on American soil.
9. James instructed many notable intellectuals throughout his teaching career, such as W. E. B. Du Bois and Theodore Roosevelt.
10. On August 26, 1910, James passed away at 68-years-old in Chocorua, New Hampshire.