Margaret Floy Washburn

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Margaret Floy Washburn
Margaret Floy Washburn was born on July 25, 1871 in Harlem, New York City to Rev. Francis and Elizabeth Floy Washburn. She was an only child and did not attend school until the age of seven, although she could read and write long before that. Her first school was private and kept by the Misses Smuller. In private school she learned not only the rudiments of arithmetic, but also a foundation in French and German and the ability to read music and play all the major and minor scales from memory (Autobiography, 1930). It was not until the age of eleven that she entered public school. She entered high school at the age of twelve and graduated in June of 1886 at the age of fifteen.

The fall of 1886, she attended Vassar College where she studied Chemistry and French. She entered as a preparatory student because she lacked some Latin and had had no French since her earliest school days, but Miss Smuller had laid such a good foundation that she needed only one semester at Vassar to secure admission to freshman French (Autobiography, 1930). However, when she graduated in 1891 her interests had changed to Philosophy and Science. In 1898, she also joined Mu Chapter, Phi Beta Kappa (Vassar Encyclopedia, n.d.). Even though Columbia University did not admit women graduate students, Washburn received special permission to attend and study under Cattell as a "hearer." While waiting to find out if she would be accepted as a "hearer" she took the School of Mines course in quantitative chemical analysis at the Barnard laboratory where President Butler suggested she read Wundt's long article on psychological methods in the first volume of Philosophische Studien, which she did even after having only one year of German. While at Columbia, she was assigned the experimental problem of finding whether Weber's Law held for the two-point threshold on the skin (Autobiography, 1930). At the end of one year, Cattell advised her to transfer to the Sage...
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