Encyclopedia Brunoniana

Hunter, Walter S.

Walter Samuel Hunter (1889-1954), professor of psychology, was born in Decatur, Illinois, on March 22, 1889. In 1901, after the death of his mother, he and his brother were taken by their father to live on his grandfather’s farm in Saginaw, Texas, where Walter attended a two-room school until 1905, when he was admitted to the Preparatory School of the Polytechnic College in Fort Worth. It was there that he read William James, and decided to become a psychologist. After two years at the Polytechnic College, he transferred to the University of Texas, where he took all the available psychology courses, earned $15 a month as an assistant to Dr. C. S. Yoakum in his final year, and conducted a study using a homemade cage in the backyard of his rooming house, which was later published as “Some labyrinth habits of the domestic pigeon.” On graduation from the University of Texas in 1910, he was awarded a scholarship for study at the University of Chicago. His dissertation for his doctorate in 1912 was Delayed Reaction in Animals and Children.

Hunter became an instructor at the University of Texas in 1912, adjunct professor at the University of Kansas in 1916, and the first G. Stanley Hall Professor of Genetic Psychology at Clark University in 1925. In the First World War he left Kansas for sixteen months to be chief psychological examiner in three Army camps. At Clark he was able to teach graduate students and devote time to research. His students worked on the sensory control of the maze habit in rats, and Hunter himself in his nine years at Clark published 21 experimental papers, five theoretical studies, four chapters in books, a textbook, Human Behavior, and served on committees of the American Psychological Association and the National Research Council. In 1936 he came to Brown to replace Leonard Carmichael. He stayed for the rest of his life. Also in 1936 Hunter was appointed Chairman of the Division of Anthropology and Psychology of the National Research Council. During the Second World War he was Chairman of the Applied Psychology Panel of the National Defense Research Committee. He received the Presidential Medal of Merit in 1948. He was editor of Psychological Index from 1926 to its termination in 1936, and editor of Psychological Abstracts from 1926 until 1946, when he resigned because he thought twenty years was long enough for a single editor. He resigned the chairmanship of the Psychology Department on his 65th birthday in March 1954. A few months later after returning from a trip he suffered a sudden coronary occlusion and died in Providence on August 3, 1954. Remembering him at the dedication of the Hunter Laboratory of Psychology in 1958, Leonard Carmichael said, “Dr. Hunter early became one of the leading exponents of an enlightened objective and behavioristic psychology that has now come to be almost synonymous with scientific psychology in this country.”