Guide to the William McDougall Papers, 1892 - 1982
William McDougall (1871-1938), an early twentieth century psychologist, taught at Duke University from 1927 to 1938. McDougall espoused a hormic theory of psychology, emphasizing genetics and instinct over nurture. McDougall was also a strong proponent of parapsychology. The William McDougall Papers, 1892-1982, includes correspondence, writing, research, teaching materials, clippings, notebooks, photographs, diaries, drawings, and tributes. Most of the materials date from the time of McDougall's tenure at Duke University. Major subjects include Lamarckian experiments conducted by McDougall, the McDougall family (and sons Kenneth and Angus in particular), the study of parapsychology, the Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University, the Psychology Department at Duke University, and anthropological studies in Borneo and the Torres Strait. English.
- Record Group
- William McDougall papers
- 1892 - 1982
- McDougall, William, 1871-1938
- 9.5 Linear Feet, 10000 Items
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
The William McDougall Papers date from 1892 to 1982, and contain McDougall's own papers as well as those of his family and other researchers. The collection is organized into three series. The first series, Professional, includes correspondence, writing, research, teaching materials, clippings, and tributes. Most of the materials date from the late 1920s to the late 1930s, the time of McDougall's tenure at Duke University. Of particular note is his correspondence with other scholars in the fields of psychology and the social sciences. A card file which indexes these correspondents is available with the collection. McDougall's notes from his Lamarckian experiments on rats can also be found here, as can photograph albums from his anthropological travels in the late 1890s. The Family series contains correspondence, notebooks, photographs, clippings, writings, research and education materials, diaries, drawings, and other materials. Many materials belonging to two of McDougall's sons, Kenneth and Angus, are filed here. The third series, Other Researchers, contains writings and correspondence written by other researchers about McDougall or about McDougall's influence on psychology. These materials were not directly related to or owned by McDougall; most were generated after his death.
Access to the Collection
Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.
Use & Permissions
Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
How to Cite
[Identification of item], William McDougall Papers, University Archives, Duke University.
The Professional series includes correspondence, writing, research, teaching materials, clippings, and tributes. Most of the materials date from the late 1920s to the late 1930s, the time of McDougall's tenure at Duke University. The correspondence is arranged chronologically, and includes correspondence with a number of important psychologists and social sciences researchers. A card file of correspondents and subjects has been made, and is available at the Duke University Archives.
Also in the collection are many articles written by McDougall. Many are handwritten or typescript, and may be drafts of later articles. These are arranged according to title, and are followed by a number of unidentified articles and manuscripts. Also included are bibliographies of McDougall's work.
The research materials contains a number of notebooks kept by McDougall as he conducted Lamarckian experiments on rats at Duke University. Two photograph albums date from McDougall's early anthropological work with southeast Asian and Pacific island peoples. The Sarawak album in particular offers a unique glimpse at early 20th century life on several Pacific islands.
The teaching materials are mainly from the 1930s and relate to Duke University. The clippings and tribute materials provide information on McDougall's influence on his contemporaries, as well as his legacy.
These experiments were McDougall's Lamarckian research with rats.
This album contains pictures from McDougall's days at Oxford, as well as some of his research travels to Asia.
This album contains pictures from McDougall's travels to the Pacific Island of Sarawak. The photographs appear to be platinum prints of the islanders, their villages, and their work, warfare, and cultural events. The album is inscribed, "For W McDougall with complements from R Shelford and Charles Hove."
The Psychology Department subseries refers to the Duke University Department of Psychology.
The Family series contains correspondence, notebooks, photographs, clippings, writings, research and education materials, diaries, drawings, and other materials. The family kept notebooks in which observations on the children's development were recorded, and included in this series is a notebook for each child except for Kenneth. A significant number of family photographs are also included in this series, and have been sorted according to subject.
A major portion of the series is devoted to materials belonging to two of the McDougall children, Kenneth and Angus. Kenneth continued working on his father's Lamarckian experiments after William McDougall's death in 1938, and his research notebooks are included. Also included in his papers are his armed forces documents, correspondence with his mother during his service in World War II, and diaries kept in the late 1930s. In the Angus McDougall subseries, copies of drawings of Perkins Library, made in 1969, are included, along with correspondence and writings.
The Other Researchers series contains writings and correspondence written by other researchers about McDougall or about McDougall's influence on psychology. These materials were not directly related to or owned by McDougall; most were generated after his death. The series is arranged in alphabetical order by researcher name.
William McDougall, a noted psychologist, was born in Lancashire, England, in 1871. He was educated at the University of Manchester (1886-1890); St. John's College, Cambridge (M.B., 1894), St. Thomas Hospital in London; and at Oxford (M.A., 1908). He also studied at Gottingen and received the D.Sc. from the University of Manchester in 1919.
In about 1898, McDougall participated in an anthropological expedition to Borneo and the Torres Strait. Unsatisfied with anthropology, he turned back to psychology and taught at University College, London, from 1900 to 1904. From 1904 to 1920, McDougall served as a Wilde reader in mental philosophy at Oxford University. During World War I, he also served as a major in the Royal Army Medical Corps. In 1920 he became a professor of psychology at Harvard. In 1927, he came to Duke University as a professor and chair of the new Department of Psychology, a position he held until his death in 1938. McDougall was also one of the organizers of the British Psychological Society; he was for a time president of the British Society for Psychical Research; and in 1912 became a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.
McDougall was perhaps best known as a vigorous opponent of behaviorism and materialism in psychology. He strongly believed that nature, not nurture, was responsible for a person's psychological composition. Through empirical, scientific study, McDougall attempted to demonstrate that his "hormic theory of psychology," which emphasized instinct, was superior to the prevailing behaviorist theory of psychology at the time. For many years, he conducted experiments on rats to determine if training could be inherited from one generation to the next. Although his prolific writings and speeches were often controversial and unpopular, McDougall was considered one of the most prominent psychologists of his time.
He also showed a strong interest in extrasensory perception and parapsychological phenomena from his time at Oxford onward. Like his opinions on behaviorism, his advocation of parapsychology was also criticized. McDougall was instrumental in bringing J.B. Rhine to Duke University, and helping to establish the well-known Parapsychology Laboratory at the school.
In 1899, McDougall married Anne Amelia Hickmore of Brighton, England. They had five children: Leslie (Mrs. Paul Brown); Duncan Shimwell (who died while serving in the R.A.F.); Angus Dougal (who died in 1978); Kenneth Dougal (who was killed in France in World War II); and Janet Aline (who died in childhood). William McDougall died on November 28, 1938, and his widow in 1964.
- Department of Psychology Records (Duke University Archives)
- Parapsychology Laboratory Records (Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Special Collections Department, Duke University)
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- Duke University. Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
- Duke University. Parapsychology Laboratory
- McDougall, William, 1871-1938
- McDougall, William, 1871-1938
- McDougall, Angus, 1906-1978
- McDougall, Kenneth Dougal, 1908-
- McDougall family
The William McDougall Papers was received by the University Archives as a gift in 1949 (A48-589), 1950 (A48-789), 1956 (A48-2339), 1967 (A67-80, A67-326), 1979 (A79-32), 1980 (A80-61, A80-80), 1985 (A85-76), 1986 (A86-31), 1990 (A90-53), and 1991 (A91-122).
Processed by Valerie Gillispie
Completed August 20, 2004
Encoded by Valerie Gillispie, September 2, 2004
Finding aid updated by Kat Stefko, September 3, 2014