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Carl Stumpf

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Carl Stumpf

Date of Birth:
April 21, 1848 (Wiesentheid, Germany)

Date of Death:
December 25, 1936 (Berlin, Germany)

Part of Companion:


Stumpf studied at the University of Würzburg—first aesthetics and law, and later philosophy with Franz Brentano. Because Brentano had not completed the qualifications allowing him to supervise dissertations, Stumpf wrote his doctoral thesis on Plato (1868) and his habilitation thesis on mathematical axioms (1870) at the University of Göttingen, supervised by Hermann Lotze. Both philosophers had a strong influence on Stumpf’s thinking and further writings.

Between 1870 and 1894, Stumpf obtained positions in the philosophy departments at Göttingen, Würzburg, Prague, Munich, and Halle; in Halle, he supervised Husserl’s habilitation thesis. In 1894, after much hesitation, he accepted a professorship at the Friedrich Wilhelm University (today’s Humboldt University) in Berlin. Six years later, Stumpf founded the Institute of Psychology, where Gestalt psychology was born. Also in 1900, he started to set up a phonogram archive and, with Otto Abraham, made initial recordings there using the Edison phonograph. From 1907 to 1908, Stumpf was president of the Friedrich Wilhelm University. He equipped and expanded his Berlin institute and earned worldwide recognition. In 1922, he passed responsibility for the institute to his student Wolfang Köhler, but continued to teach philosophy until 1923. He died thirteen years later in Berlin.

Carl Stumpf was co-founder and editor of prestigious journals such as Zeitschrift für Psychologie und Physiologie der Sinnesorgane (1890–1916) and Beiträge zur Akustik und Musikwissenschaft (1898–1924). He collaborated with many important personalities of his time, including Max Planck, Hermann Ebbinghaus, and Friedrich Schumann, was a member of the Academy of Sciences and the Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften in Berlin, and founded the Verein für Kinderpsychologie (child psychology association). Stumpf’s writings were regarded as pioneering in the psychology of tones, comparative musicology, and ethnomusicology. His influence can also be seen in the work of his students, among them Robert Musil, Wolfgang Köhler, Kurt Koffka, and Kurt Lewin.

Tonpsychologie. vol. 1, Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1883,

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