Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Trivia Quiz: How Well Do You Know Psychology’s Pioneers?

See if you can identify four of the field’s founders

Here's a Trivia Quiz about your knowledge of classic texts in psychology:

Below are four quotes written by the authors of some of the classic texts that shaped the field of psychology. If you have ever taken a psychology course, you have heard of these people. In fact, you are likely familiar with at least 3 of them even if you never took a psychology course, but did go to college.

See if you guess who said each:

1. On delivering his manuscript to his publisher, Author A sent along the following apologetic note:

“No one could be more disgusted than I at the sight of this book. No subject is worth being treated of in 1000 pages! Had I ten years more, I could rewrite it in 500; but as it stands it is this or nothing -- a loathsome, distended, tumefied, bloated, dropsical mass, testifying to nothing but two facts: 1st, that there is no such thing as a science of psychology, and 2nd, that "X.X." [author's own initials were written here] is an incapable.”

2. After author B published his now classic book, he received this note from author C:

“Pray, let me add a word of congratulations on the completion of your wonderful volume... I have laid it down in the full enjoyment of a feeling that one rarely experiences after boyhood days, of having been initiated into an entirely new province of knowledge which, nevertheless, connects itself with other things in a thousand ways.

Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

3. A decade later, author C (shown in the photo at the left) published his own now classic book, and received a reciprocal compliment from Author B:

"I do not think I have ever in my life read anything more interesting and original."

Author C was later knighted for his scientific accomplishments. Author B, however, is today generally regarded as the greater scientist by an order of magnitude.

4. This from Author D, whose very influential book was published several years after he had left academia:

...There is no such thing as an inheritance of capacity, talent, temperament ... These things ... depend on training that goes on mainly in the cradle...

Here’s a hint for each of the above:

1. Author A may have achieved more fame as a philosopher than as a psychologist, and his brother was a famous novelist. His loathsome, bloated, dropsical mass, published in 1890, sold quite well, and continues to be regarded as eloquent to this day, over a century later. In this classic book, he used the term "evolutionary psychology" (and I believe he coined the term).

2. Author B was also notorious in several disciplines other than psychology, and was able to comfortably conduct his writing and research, and to publish his classic book in 1859, as well as several other classics, because he had married the wealthy daughter of Josiah Wedgwood (founder of the famous china manufacturing corporation)

3. Author C, whose influential book was published in 1869, was the inventor of the correlational method and the twin method, and was Author B's cousin.

4. The quote from author D was written in 1924, the same year he was promoted to Vice President of J. Walter Thompson Corporation, the original Mad Men agency in New York, where he had gone after being fired from his university job for having an affair with his research assistant while the two of them conducted one of the classic studies in the early 20th century.

I took these quotes from fascinating volume I have been reading, called: Pioneers of Psychology by Raymond E. Fancher. I pulled a decades-old edition of this book off my shelf while I was pondering the question of whether the field of psychology had any geniuses comparable to those from computer science (see Are There Any Geniuses in the Field of Psychology?). Fancher's book (now in a fifth edition, with coauthor Alexandra Rutherford) has reignited my excitement about the history of our field, and convinced me that psychology has indeed produced its share of geniuses (or perhaps I should say that there have been real geniuses who have produced the field of psychology).

Here are the answers:

1. Written by William James to Henry Holt, about his Principles of Psychology.

2. Written by Francis Galton to Charles Darwin after reading Origin of Species.

3. Written by Charles Darwin to Francis Galton after reading Hereditary Genius.

4. Written by John B. Watson in his book Behaviorism.

Related blogs:

Are there any geniuses in the field of psychology? Can psychology hold a candle to computer science?

Who are psychology's geniuses (part II). Some brilliant psychologists I have known.

What is psychology's single most brilliant discovery?


Darwin, C. (1859). On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: Or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. London: John Murray.

Fancher, R. E., & Rutherford, A. (2016). Pioneers of psychology (5th edition). New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Galton, F. (1869). Hereditary genius. London: Macmillan.

James, W. (1890). The principles of psychology. New York: Holt and company.

Watson, J.B. (1924). Behaviorism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Photo credit: Francis Galton, from Wikimedia Commons