Arnold Gesell

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Arnold Gesell
Born (1880-06-21)June 21, 1880
Alma, Wisconsin
Died May 29, 1961(1961-05-29) (aged 80)
New Haven, Connecticut
Fields Psychology
Alma mater University of Wisconsin—Madison
Yale University
Known for Studies in child development

Arnold Lucius Gesell (21 June 1880 - 29 May 1961) was an American psychologist and pediatrician and professor at Yale University, known for his research and contributions in the the field of child development.[1]

Early life[edit]

Gesell was born in Alma, Wisconsin, and would later write a book analyzine his experiences there, The Village of a Thousand Souls. He was the eldest of five children and the son of a photographer and a teacher. His first experience in observing child development involved watching his younger siblings learn and grow. He graduated from high school in 1896.

Gesell attended Stevens Point Normal School, where aa course taught by Edgar James Swift, led Gesell to take an interest in psychology. He worked as a high school teacher briefly, before leaving to study at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Gesell studied history under Frederick Jackson Turner and psychology under Joseph Jastrow and received a Bachelor of Philosophy degree from Wisconsin in 1903.

Career[edit]

Gesell served as a teacher and high school principal before continuing his education at Clark University, where the university's president, G. Stanley Hall, had founded a child study movement.[2] He received his Ph. D. from Clark in 1906.

Gessell worked at several educational facilities in New York City and Wisconsin before obtaining a professorship at the Los Angeles State Normal School. There he met fellow teacher Beatrice Chandler, whom he married. They later had a daughter and a son.

Gesell spent time at schools for the mentally disabled, including the Vineland Training School in New Jersey. Having developed an interest in the causes and treatment of childhood disablilities, Gesell began studying at the University of Wisconsin Medical School to better understand physiology.[3] He later served as an assistant professor at Yale University while continuing to study medicine.[4] He developed the Clinic of Child Development there and received his M.D. in 1915. He was later given a full professorship at Yale.

Gesell also served as the school psychologist for the Connecticut State Board of Education and helped to develop classes to help children with disabilities succeed. He wrote several books, including The Preschool Child from the Standpoint of Public Hygiene and Education in 1923, The Mental Growth of the Preschool Child in 1925 (which was also published as a film), and An Atlas of Infant Behavior (chronicling typical milestones for certain ages) in 1934. He coauthored with Frances Ilg two childrearing guides, Infant and Child in the Culture of Today in 1943, and The Child from Five to Ten in 1946.

Gesell made use of the latest technology in his research. He used the newest in video and photography advancements. He also made use of one-way mirrors when observing children, even inventing the Gesell dome, a one-way mirror shaped as a dome, under which children could be observed without being disturbed. In his research he studied many children, including Kamala, the wolf girl. He also did research on young animals, including monkeys.

As a psychologist, Gesell wrote and spoke about the importance of both nature and nurture in child development. He cautioned others not to be quick to attribute mental disabilities to specific causes. He believed that many aspects of human behavior, such as handedness and temperament were heritable. He explained that children adapted to their parents as well as to one another. He advocated for a nationwide nursery school system in the United States.

Maturational Theory and Developemental Schedules[edit]

Gesell's ideas came to be known as Gesell’s Maturational Theory of child development.[4][5] Based on his theory, he published a series of summaries of child development sequences, called the Gesell Developmental Schedules.


The Gesell Institute of Human Development, named after him, was started by his colleagues from the Clinic of Child Development, Dr. Frances Ilg and Dr. Louise Bates Ames in 1950, after Gesell retired from the university in 1948. In 2012, the Institute was renamed to the Gesell Institute of Child Development.

Personal[edit]

Gessell married Beatrice Chandler, a teacher at Los Angeles State Normal School. The couple had a daughter and a son.[6]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Gesell, Arnold. “The Village of a Thousand Souls.” American Magazine, Oct. 1913, pp. 11–16.
  • Gesell, A., & Ilg, F. L. (1949). Child development, an introduction to the study of human growth. New York: Harper.
  • Gesell, A., Ilg, F. L., & Ames, L. B. (1974). Infant and child in the culture of today: the guidance of development in home and nursery school (Rev. ed.). New York: Harper & Row.
  • Gesell, A., Thompson, H., & Amatruda, C. S. (1938). The psychology of early growth, including Norms of infant behavior and a method of genetic analysis. New York: The Macmillan Company.
  • “Arnold Lucius Gesell.”, in Boring, E.G. (1952), History of Psychology in Autobiography 4: 123-42. Worcester, MA: Clark University Press.

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Herman, E (2001), "Families made by science. Arnold Gesell and the technologies of modern child adoption.", Isis; an international review devoted to the history of science and its cultural influences (Dec 2001) 92 (4): 684–715, PMID 11921680 
  2. ^ William Kessen (July 1983). History, theory, and methods. Wiley. pp. 72–73. ISBN 978-0-471-09057-1. 
  3. ^ William C. Crain (March 1980). Theories of development: concepts and applications. Prentice-Hall. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-13-913566-8. 
  4. ^ a b Neil J Salkind (22 January 2004). An Introduction to Theories of Human Development. SAGE Publications. pp. 59–. ISBN 978-0-7619-2639-9. 
  5. ^ Encyclopedia of Human Ecology: A-H. ABC-CLIO. pp. 338–. ISBN 978-1-57607-852-5. 
  6. ^ Rebecca Staples New; Moncrieff Cochran (1 December 2006). Early Childhood Education [Four Volumes]. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 388–. ISBN 978-0-313-01448-2. 

General references[edit]

  • Harris, Benjamin. "Arnold Lucius Gesell". American National Biography. Retrieved on 2006-11-16
  • Kessen, William. (1965). "Growth and Personality" The Child: 208–228.
  • Miles, Walter R. (1964). "Arnold Lucius Gesell". Biographical Memoirs: National Academy of Sciences 37: 55–96. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Ball, R S (1977), "The Gesell Developmental Schedules: Arnold Gesell (1880-1961).", Journal of abnormal child psychology 5 (3): 233–9, doi:10.1007/BF00913694, PMID 332745 
  • LEYS, R (1961), "Arnold GESELL.", Cerebral palsy bulletin 3: 608–9, PMID 14037200 
  • KNOBLOCH, H (1961), "Arnold GESELL 1880-1961.", The American journal of psychiatry (Dec 1961) 118: 574–6, PMID 14036863 
  • KANNER, L (1960), "Arnold GESELL's place in the history of developmental psychology and psychiatry.", Psychiatric research reports (Dec 1960) 13: 1–9, PMID 13751194 

External links[edit]