Hebb, D. O. (Donald Olding)

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Hebb, D. O. (Donald Olding)

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D.O. Hebb, one of the outstanding psychologists of this century, was born in Nova Scotia July 20th, 1904. He was educated at Dalhousie (B.A., 1925) and McGill (M.A. 1932). He taught briefly in public schools. While recovering from a serious illness, he read the works of Pavlov and Karl Lashley and became interested in psychology. He studied under Lashley in Chicago and at Harvard, where he received his Ph.D. in 1936. Hebb then conducted research on brain-damaged patients with Wilder Penfield at the Montreal Neurological Institute (1937-1939), and after teaching at Queen's (1941-1942), went to the Yerkes Laboratories of Primate Biology as research fellow (1942-1947). In 1947 he came to McGill as Professor of psychology, serving as chairman of the department (1948-1959), Vice-Dean for biological sciences (1964-1966), and finally Chancellor of the University (1970-1972). He passed away on August 20th, 1985.


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Hebb's central concern as a psychologist was to develop his neurophysiological theory of such mental functions as thought, imagery, volition, attention and memory - all problems which orthodox behaviorism tended to avoid or dismiss. Besides his important monographs, The Organization of Behavior (1949) and A Textbook of Psychology (1958), he wrote over 50 scholarly articles; moreover, he was at the centre of a network of researchers which, though informal, served to review and refine new ideas in psychology before they were published. Due to Psychology’s status as a subject of general interest, Hebb was frequently involved in debates which attracted the attention of the mass media and the general public.

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