Stern, William

Stern, William


Born Apr. 29, 1871, in Berlin; died Mar. 27, 1938 in Durham, N.C. German psychologist and idealist philosopher.

Stern was on the faculty of the University of Breslau from 1897 to 1915, becoming a professor in 1907. From 1916 to 1933 he was a professor in Hamburg, where he founded an institute of psychology to study mainly problems of child and pedagogical psychology. Stern emigrated to the United States in 1933 and became a professor at Duke University the following year.

Stern was the author of classical works on child psychology (Psychology of Early Childhood, 1914; Russian translation, 1915). He was particularly interested in gifted children. Stern’s studies embraced a wide range of aspects of general, genetic, and applied psychology, including differential psychology. Stern was one of the first to engage in a systematic study of individual differences and to use intelligence tests. He introduced the concept of the intelligence quotient. He also pioneered in forensic psychology (see his article in the collection Problems of Psychology, fasc. 1, 1901). In philosophy, Stern developed the concept of “personalistics” (Person and Matter, vols. 1–3, 1906–24), regarding the world as a hierarchical system of “personalities” of varying ranks (adult human being, child, animal, plant, crystal). Stern contrasted matter as something determined from without with personality as some internally active and purposeful integral whole.


Allgemeine Psychologie auf personalistischer Grundlage, 2nd ed. The Hague, 1950.


A History of Psychology in Autobiography, vol. 1. Edited by Carl Murchison. Worcester-London, 1930. Pages 335–88.


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As with Stern, Williams stays with the material and secular world, a world that survives--as he says in a later poem, "Chaos"--our rage for order.