Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: June 25, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963978 | Print ISBN: 9781412909280 | Online ISBN: 9781412963978| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Skinner, B. F. (1904–1990)
Edward K. Morris
Having made contributions that were as profound as they were practical, Burrhus Frederic (B. F.) Skinner was one of the most eminent psychologists of the 20th century. Born on March 20, 1904, in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, he developed an early penchant for inventing and experimenting, was a keen observer of biology and behavior, and read Francis Bacon. With an emerging intellectual independence, he entered Hamilton College in 1922 as an English major, but he bristled at its social conventions and institutional constraints. Encouraged by Robert Frost, he began a career as a writer, but writing failed him in that it didn't make a difference in Progressive, modernist America. While he was writing, though, he was reading. Bertrand Russell was praising John B. Watson's behaviorism and Sinclair Lewis was extolling life in science. The latter resonated with what Skinner had read in biology at Hamilton: Jacques Loeb's insistence that experimentation was the ...