Ebbinghaus, Hermann - (b. 1850, Wuppertal, Germany, d. 1909, Halle, Germany, Ph.D. Philosophy, University of Bonn, 1873). In pursuit of his ambition to apply the scientific method to the study of ‘higher’ cognitive processes, Ebbinghaus invented a new method for the study of memory.
Ebbinghaus taught at the University of Berlin (1880-1893), the University of Breslau (1894-1905), and the University of Halle (1905-1908). In pursuit of his ambition to apply the scientific method to the study of 'higher' cognitive processes, Ebbinghaus invented a new method for the study of memory. To avoid the pre-established associations of ordinary verbal materials, Ebbinghaus devised some twenty-three hundred consonant-vowel-consonant combinations, or nonsense syllables. Using himself as sole subject, he learned lists of nonsense syllables to mastery and recorded the amounts retained, or the trials necessary for relearning, after a passage of time. This methodology is still standard in human learning laboratories today. In 1885 Ebbinghaus published the classic monograph Über das Gedächtnis (English translation, Memory, 1913). In 1886, he opened the psychological laboratory at the University of Berlin. To publish work emanating from places other than Wundt's Leipzig laboratory, Ebbinghaus and König founded the Zeitschrift für Psychologie und Physiologie der Sinnersorgane in 1890. After this Ebbinghaus began to study vision, publishing a color-vision theory in 1893. At Breslau, Ebbinghaus established another laboratory (1894) and published a new method for testing the mental ability of schoolchildren, the 'Ebbinghaus completion test,' (1897) which is still used. Also in 1897, Ebbinghaus published the first volume of a highly successful textbook of psychology, Grundzüge der Psychologie, which saw three editions by 1911.
Zusne, Leonard (1984). Biographical dictionary of psychology, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. [bookstore]
Revised 28 June 2005