Founders of American Psychology

November 15, 2016

The founders of American

The American Psychological Association was founded in 1892 with 31 members and grew quickly after World War II. Today, APA is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States, with more than 122, 500 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students as its members. APA also has 54 divisions in subfields of psychology.

APA was founded in July 1892 by a small group of men interested in what they called “the new psychology.” The group elected 31 individuals, including themselves, to membership, with G. Stanley Hall (1844-1924) as its first president.

APA’s first meeting was held in December 1892 at the University of Pennsylvania. The basic governance of the APA consisted of a council with an executive committee. This structure has continued to the beginning of the twenty-first century: Today, APA has a Council of Representatives with a Board of Directors.

APA’s founding was part of a large number of changes occurring in the United States then, including:

  • The emergence of academic disciplines such as psychology, economics, political science, biochemistry and physiology. These new disciplines quickly developed advanced degrees that provided credentials to validate the disciplines’ members as experts.
  • The progressive movement in politics, which called for a more efficient, less corrupt, social order.

The synergy of these two developments — specialized expertise and rationalized government — helped create the need for trained personnel to fill the new professional niches created by the demands for a more efficient society. Membership growth of the APA was modest over its first 50 years.


31 members


125 members


308 members


530 members


664 members

However, in 1926 a new class of non-voting membership was formed: associate members. Most of the growth occurred in that class after 1926, so that there were 2, 079 associate members in 1940. Many of these associates were individuals doing practical or applied work in psychology, and who also belonged to one of the applied associations that emerged in this time.

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