The course “Explorations in the History of Psychology (Psyc 3120.606) was offered during Spring Break 2014 and provided students with cultural and intellectual experiences associated with psychology in Vienna, Austria and Prague, Czech Republic.
Vienna was the home of Sigmund Freud and where the Gestalt School of Psychology was founded. In addition, Vienna was the capital city of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and is still consider one of the most beautiful cities in the world. One of the highlights of our trip to Vienna was a visit to the home of Freud which has been transformed into a museum. The museum consisted of his apartment and consulting room and contained many artifacts such as books, letters, and art from Freud’s personal collection. In addition to the Museum, we visited many of the cultural sites associated with Vienna including St. Stephens Cathedral, Mozart’s home, and museums such as the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Culture. On a more sober note, some of us visited places associated with what has become known as “Kristallnacht” (Crystal Night, also known as the Night of Broken Glass) which was carried out by Nazis and their many supporters in Vienna (November 9, 10, 1938). During these two days Freud’s home was also ransacked. Our hotel was in walking distance of many of the historical sites associated with Vienna. The food was also first rate as was the shopping.
After a few days in Vienna we moved to Prague. To get to Prague we took a tour bus which allowed us to learn more about the relationship between these two great cities. For example, the famous Mozart opera “Don Giovanni” was composed in his Viennese apartment but was premiered in the Estates Theatre in Prague. We also saw the Prague Astronomical Clock which was installed in 1410. This clock was the third oldest of its type and the oldest still working. Another highlight of our visit was a lecture given by Dr. Daniel Heller on the history of psychology in the Czech Republic and the history of Charles University (Universitas Carolina) – especially as it was influenced by Nazis and communists. It served as a stark reminder to all of us about the dangers of associating politics and science. We also learned that Charles University is the oldest in Eastern Europe having received its charter on April 7th, 1348. In addition to the lecture, we were treated to a “mini museum” within the department that housed some of the original equipment used in the laboratory of Wilhelm Wundt. Wundt is generally considered the founder of experimental psychology in 1879. Of special interest is the way Charles University selects their undergraduate psychology majors. Unlike the selection process in the United States, at Charles University perspective students must pass both a written and oral examination. Moreover, they select only 50 undergraduate students per year.
Prior to our trip to Europe, we met on a regular basis to learn about the history of psychology, to share articles, and to plan our trip. For example, Dr. Abramson was familiar with the work of Dr. Jiri Hoskovec on the history of psychology in the Czech Republic but he died in 2011. Luckily, his daughter – Dr. Simona Hoskovcova – arranged our program and the meeting with Dr. Heller.
Our next trip is planned for Russia where we will visit many places of historical interest – especially the home of the conditioned reflex! If you have any questions please feel free to contact Dr. Abramson or Ms. Daggy.