The new department under Bush
Robert R. Bush received a B.S. Degree from Michigan State in
Electrical Engineering in 1942, and a Ph.D. from Princeton in
Physics. He opted to move toward the social sciences and took
an NRC/SSRC Fellowship designed for this transition at Harvard in
the Department of Social Relations. Quick, well organized and
directly to the point, Bush surveyed the field and decided to
work in the area of mathematical learning theory. He also led a
seminar on mathematical methods in the social sciences. In the
early 195O's, Bush began a collaboration with Eugene Galanter (at
Penn) and Duncan Luce.
A train trip to Boston on Thanksgiving weekend 1957 afforded Bush
and Galanter the leisure to discuss the problem that
Pennsylvania's Department of Psychology was having in selecting a
new Chairman. It was then beginning to shift from its postwar
concentration on training clinical psychologists toward a
commitment to a strong experimental program in several fields of
psychology including psychopathology. By the time Bush and
Galanter arrived at Luce's Cambridge apartment, they had hatched
the idea of proposing Bush's name as Chairman. Among its advantages
would be the establishment of an eastern haven where mathematical
psychology could be fostered. The idea appealed to us, but the
political realities were formidable. Just how realistic was it
for an Assistant Professor to propose as Chairman of one of the
oldest departments of psychology in the United States a recently
converted physicist who was then an applied mathematician in a
school of social work, especially when one of his first proposed
appointments would be an ex-mathematician, then a lecturer on
(Galanter and Luce, 1974)
Bush came to Penn as Chairman in July, 1958 and injected a
sense of excitement into it as he restructured the faculty.
Duncan Luce arrived with him in that year and in subsequent
years, the senior faculty was augmented by Philip Teitelbaum in
physiological psychology, Richard Solomon in learning, Jacob
Nachmias in sensation-perception, Leo Hurvich and Dorothea
Jameson in sensation-perception, David Green in
sensation-perception, and Henry Gleitman in learning and memory.
Many junior appointments were also made. In 1957, the faculty
included 16 full-time positions. By 1964, the year that Henry
Gleitman took over as Chairman, there were 22 full-time
positions. Of these 22, only six were from the pre-Bush days.
Viteles, Preston and Irwin, of the pre-Bush senior faculty, and
Pepitone and Wishner of the junior faculty, became active and
enduring members of the new department that Bush built. Hiring
was based primarily on intellectual excellence and promise with
the field of research as a secondary factor.
The changes that occurred at Pennsylvania over the period from
1958 to 1964, constitute one of the most dramatic faculty
restructurings in the history of psychology in the United States.
They laid the foundation for an expanding department dedicated to
the principles of breadth and excellence. Followed by Gleitman's
emphasis on the quality of teaching, the Department assumed its
modern form by the close of the 1960's.
Bush (right) with Henry Gleitman (left), the new chair after Bush.
The collaboration of Galanter, Bush and Luce led to publication
of the Handbook of Mathematical Psychology.
Four years after Bush stepped down as Chairman, he left
Pennsylvania for the Chairmanship at Columbia,
in the Journal of Mathematical Psychology, 1974
(vol. 11, no. 3) is an excellent introduction to his life and work.
Those bringing Bush to Penn
Morris Viteles, Malcolm Preston, and Francis Irwin formed a committee
to select a Chairman. During the critical year, Irwin served as acting
Chairman. The committee made the seemingly unlikely nomination of
Provost David Goddard, the administration figure most responsible
for supporting the changes that Bush proposed. At the time Bush
was proposed, Goddard was Chairman of Biology and supported the
Eliot Stellar of the Institute of Neurological Sciences also
supported bringing Bush to Pennsylvania.
Eugene Galanter, an Assistant Professor in the area of
mathematical psychology in the pre-Bush department. Galanter was
a close friend and collaborator of Bush and suggested Bush as
President Gaylord Harnwell, who supported bringing Bush to
Penn and the subsequent faculty development. Provost Jonathan
Rhodes and Dean of the College Roy Nichols also supported this
Last modified: Mon May 1 13:44:19 EDT 2006