History of the UCLA Psychology Department

Even before 1900, the Los Angeles State Normal School was sufficiently progressive to have developed a Department of Psychology. By 1900, there was a laboratory with adequate equipment and courses in general, child, educational, and clinical psychology. In addition, there were courses in experimental methods and experimental psychology. Thus, psychology at Los Angeles had its antecedence less than 20 years after the formal founding of the discipline in 1879.

When the normal school moved to North Vermont Avenue in 1914, the Department of Psychology was housed in one of the central buildings. Following the absorption of the normal school into the University in 1919, the growth of the institution was rapid and the department shared in this development. The academic duties of the staff were supplemented by services to the Whittier State School, the Juvenile Court, and the Los Angeles Police Department. In 1921, the Psychology Clinic School was established by the Regents.

With the development of a four-year College of Letters and Science, it was decided to strengthen the Department of Psychology, especially in the experimental area. Shepherd Ivory Franz, a distinguished physiological psychologist, was brought to Los Angeles as professor of psychology and chair of the department in 1924. When the campus was moved to Westwood, psychology was housed in the library building and shared vivarium space on the roof of the old Physics Building with the Department of Biology. By this time, psychology was offering a very well-rounded curriculum and producing a succession of highly successful bachelors of arts students who later went on to doctoral degrees at other institutions. When, in September, 1933, graduate study was initiated at Los Angeles, one of the original 13 departments authorized to accept graduate students was psychology.

In 1933, following the untimely death of Shepard Ivory Franz, Kate Gordon Moore served briefly as chair. In 1935, Knight Dunlap came to UCLA from Johns Hopkins with the understanding that he was to participate in the planning of a new psychology laboratory more worthy of a developing major department. In 1937, the department was approved to accept candidates for the doctor of philosophy degree. In 1940, what was to be the first wing of a building to house all of the life sciences was occupied largely by psychology, but partly by sociology and anthropology.  Since the 1940s, the Psychology Department has grown dramatically to become one of the premier Departments in the country.

Source: Edited version of a history written by F. Nowell Jones in 1968 to commemorate the centennial of the University of California