A neglected pioneer of psychological testing: an up-date on the life and work of Howard Andrew Knox (1885-1949)

Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University, United Kingdom

Howard Knox was a physician who was employed by the U.S. Public Health Service between 1912 and 1916 as an assistant surgeon in the immigration station at Ellis Island, New York. In response to professional and public concern that the physicians at Ellis Island were failing to detect mental retardation among potential immigrants, Knox and his colleagues devised early psychological tests that made minimal use of language. After 1916, Knox did no further work on this problem, but his tests were widely used both in the United States and around the world.

Knox has been a wholly neglected figure in the history of psychological testing. However, his writings contain many insights on the aims and limitations of intelligence tests, and his work is a key link between the initial research of Binet and Goddard and the later research of Pintner, Yerkes, and Wechsler. Nowadays, indeed, we take it for granted that any adequate measure of intelligence must include both verbal and performance tests, and it is thanks to Knox that we have a much broader view of the nature of intelligence and of how it can be measured.

At the 5th Annual Meeting of the ISHN, I gave an introduction to Howard Knox's life and work, based solely upon the limited evidence that was available in the published literature. Since then, I have been able to built up a far richer picture from U.S. Government archives and particularly from documentation and other information supplied by Knox's own family. In this presentation, I want to share this picture and discuss what we now know of someone who, for just four years, was such a prolific scientist at the forefront of test construction.

Session III -- Neuropsychology, Language and Cognition
Sunday, 2 June 2002, 3:45 pm

Seventh Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN)

Los Angeles, California, USA