The Biography of L.L. Thurstone

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L.L. Thurstone
When speaking on the subject of psychometrics one psychologist comes to mind; L.L. Thurstone. Throughout his life, Thurstone had many great accomplishments and awards. From his youth to his last living months, L.L. Thurstone had strived to answer the questions that came from that of the learning function and the properties it came with. Thurstone was born Louis Leon ThunstrÖm on May 29th of 1887 in Chicago. He was the first child to his father, a Swedish army mathematics instructor and Lutheran minister, and to his mother who was passionate for music. Throughout Thurstone’s childhood he and his family suffered through the difficulty of having their name mispronounced and misspelled and thus the ThunstrÖm family changed their family name to Thurstone. Thurstone’s educational career began in grade school in Berwyn Illinois, and it was at the age of eight that the Thurstone family migrated to Stockholm, Sweden where L.L. studied the swedish language in order to assimilate into this new environment presented to him. After many years in their native country, the Thurstone family decided to move back to the U.S.A, specifically Jamestown, New York in 1901. Moving from Stockholm, Sweden back to the U.S proved to be an issue, and Thurstone had to relearn the english language by having tutoring sessions with a school principal. As a young child he earned his first award as a geometry contest winner. He won thirty dollars, and used that to buy objects that pertained to his hobbies. As a sophomore in high school he would then come to publish an article in the scientific journal the Scientific American on the

issue of water consumption and the energy being used by the power companies and tourists in the Niagara Falls area. Continuing his educational career, after graduating high school Thurstone went on to pursue a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering at Cornell, but then later changed his major to electrical engineering. While pursuing his degree, Thurstone developed the motion picture camera and the projector, which unlike the older projectors, moved at a continuos and uniform manner. After developing and patenting these projects he went to Thomas Edison in his New Jersey lab to show what he had accomplished. Edison took Thurstone’s machines and reviewed them. While Edison reviewed Thurstone’s work, Thurstone revisited his interest in the psychology behind what is machine design. Thurstone wanted to research how it was that the operator learned the visual-motor coordination necessary to use a particular machine, which in later years became known as human engineering. Thurstone wanted to understand learning as a function. In order to understand learning as a function Thurstone visited and partook in lectures by professor Madison Bentley and E.B. Tichnener. One of the professors that most inspired Thurstone was engineering professor Dexter Kimball. Kimball taught the idea of the psychological history of machines which greatly interested Thurstone It was later in his life when Thurstone would recollect on the teaching manner of Kimball and later use the same teaching techniques himself. After a long examination of the machines Thurstone had presented to Edison, Thurstone finally heard back from Edison; it was 1912 when Edison was offering him an assistantship at his New Jersey laboratory. It wasn’t until after Thurstone received his Masters in Engineering that he

would come to accept this position. Edison was another person that influenced Thurstone, in the same way that Edison would experiment and review his projects a thousand or more times, as would Thurstone, which proved to be helpful later in his career. Following his assistantship with Edison, Thurstone became an instructor at the engineering college of the University of Minnesota, and his courses included geometry and drafting. While an instructor at the University of Minnesota, Thurstone enrolled in a graduate program course that focused on...
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