The ultimate aim of the Laboratory and its activities is to help people realize their infinite – totally limitless – potential. This aim concerns any and all individuals who are willing to put the necessary time and effort in order to shed their limited identity and discover their true nature.
The first verifiable psychometric laboratory in the world was set up as part of Francis Galton’s Anthropometric Laboratory in South Kensington, London in 1884 (although because Galton was researching and publishing in psychometrics long before then, this date is late, possibly by about seven years or more, depending on one’s definition of ‘laboratory’). Its lineal descendant, the Galton Laboratory was established (as the Eugenics Record Office and Biometric Laboratory) at UCL in 1904, where it has survived as part of the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment. For an inquiry into the history of Eugenics at UCL, see here.
Upon relocation of the laboratory to the galleries of the South Kensington Science Museum at the end of the International Health Exhibition in 1885, Galton donated some of his equipment to Cambridge University. This equipment was later to be used by Galton’s mentee and protégé James McKeen Cattell (no relation to Raymond B. Cattell), who briefly set up a small satellite project in Cambridge, modelled after Galton’s and carrying out work of similar nature, but more limited scope, since the centre of their collaboration remained at the far better equipped premises in South Kensington. Galton was also instrumental in the foundation of the first formal, university-based Laboratory of Psychology in the UK, inaugurated in 1898 at UCL.
A year earlier, Charles Spearman had embarked on his doctoral research under the supervision of Wilhelm Wundt in Leipzig (at the time, the only department in the world with the authority to award doctoral degrees in Psychology). However, as with J. M. Cattell, who also studied under Wundt, the defining influence on Spearman was not Wundt’s psychophysics, but Galton’s psychometrics, as discussed in Human Faculty and its Development(1883). Spearman’s research was abruptly interrupted when he was recalled to military service for three years. Meanwhile, Galton and J. M. Cattell (who had begun to spread the theories and methods of his mentor in the US and later became an important advocate of scientific psychology there) tried, with little success, to provide empirical support for the proto-psychometric theories of the former.
Soon after his return to Leipzig, Spearman ended the controversy surrounding Galton’s theories by furnishing conclusive positive proofs in his classic 1904 paper on general intelligence. The paper complemented the independent, groundbreaking contributions to psychometric testing by Alfred Binet, together with which they provided the foundation for the science of psychometrics as we understand it today. In 1907, Charles Spearman was appointed Reader in Experimental Psychology at UCL where he founded what has come to be known as the “London School of Psychology”. A distinguished member of the School, Paul Kline, became in 1986 the first Professor of Psychometrics in the UK at Exeter University.
In 2008, K. V. Petrides was appointed Reader in Psychology and Psychometrics at UCL and moved there his psychometric laboratory from the (then independent) Institute of Education. In late 2016, he was promoted to Professor of Psychology and Psychometrics, thus becoming the first ever Professor of Psychometrics at University College London – the birthplace of psychometrics.
I am grateful to Professor E. Valentine, Mr. R. Rawles, and Professor R. Audley for comments and corrections to previous drafts. For a brief history of individual differences research in the British context see here. Copyright (c) K. V. Petrides (2009 – ). All rights reserved.