L. L. Thurstone (autobiography)
THE biography of an individual scientist cannot be expected to be of general interest except when there has been a spectacular achievement or a colorful personality or both. The present case has no claim to either. Some students may find encouragement in knowing that something can be accomplished in spite of much floundering with objectives that do not seem as clear as they will in retrospect.
Picture taken at the Educational Testing Service (ETS) on the occasion of the dedication of Thurstone Hall; April 14, 1962.
From left to right:Bob Thurstone, Conrad Thurstone, J.P. Guilford, Harold Gulliksen, Clyde Coombs, Henry Chauncey, Thelma Thurstone, Fritz Thurstone, Lyle Jones, Jim Regan, Harold Bechtoldt, Dorothy Adkins, Ledyard Tucker, Paul Horst, Bob Abelson, and Fritz Fredrickson
Both of my parents were born in Sweden. In order to get some education my father joined the Swedish army and became an instructor in mathematics and fortifications. In later life he was a Lutheran minister, a newspaper editor, and a publisher. My mother, born Sophie Strath, had a very good voice and a strong interest in music. My sister, Adele, is two years younger than I. Both of us were started at the piano when we were quite young. My sister was the better student, both in high school and at the piano. She finished a Bachelor of Music degree.
My parents changed the family name, which was Thunström, because it was so frequently mispronounced and misspelled. I have never joined any Swedish clubs and I have had very few contacts with Swedes until recently when I have become acquainted with Swedish psychologists.
I was born in Chicago on May 29, 1887, but my elementary education was in many scattered places, including Berwyn in Illinois, Centerville in Mississippi, a public school in Stockholm, Sweden, a boys' school in Stockholm, a grade school and a high school in Jamestown, New York.
At the age of fourteen it was expected that I would be confirmed in the Lutheran church. This was a problem because I declined to learn the catechism. When it became evident that this was really awkward, there was a conference with my father and another Lutheran minister and myself. I was offered the proposition that if I would select any three questions in the catechism to which I was willing to learn the answers, then I would be confirmed. I accepted this proposal and thus I was officially confirmed in the Lutheran church. When I accepted this proposal, my seniors really won the case
(295) because I read the catechism voluntarily in order to select the three questions to which I would be willing to memorize the answers.
The only honor that I received in high school was a first prize of thirty dollars in the Prendergast competition in geometry. With the prize money I bought a second-hand bicycle and a box Kodak which was the starting point for my work in photography. This is still my principal hobby. When I was a high school sophomore I had my first publication. It was a short letter to theScientific American,published in June, 1905. At that time there was a good deal of discussion about the hydroelectric power companies at Niagara Falls. The power companies were accused of diverting so much water to their power plants that the beauty of Niagara Falls was being ruined. I proposed a very simple solution for the conflict between the power companies and the tourist interests. This is what I wrote:
"How to Save Niagara"
"To the Editor of theScientific American: