B. F. Skinner Biography (1904-1990)
B. F. Skinner Biography (1904-1990)



Burrhus Frederic Skinner was born in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania to Grace and William Skinner. He was brought up old fashioned and hard-working. When he was younger he enjoyed building and inventing things and he actually enjoyed going to school. However, his life was not without its tragedies. In particular his brother died at age 16 from a cerebral aneurysm.
He received his BA in English from Hamilton College in upstate New York. He didn’t fit in very well, not enjoying the fraternity parties or the football games. He wrote for school paper, including articles critical of the school, the faculty, and even Phi Beta Kappa! To top it off, he was an atheist, in a school that required daily chapel attendance. He wanted to be a writer, but it never really worked out for him. He wrote articles for newspapers on labor problems.

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Skinner decided to back to college, this time at Harvard. In 1930 he got is masters in psychology and his doctorate in 1931, and stayed at Harvard and worked on research until 1936. Also in 1936 he move to Minneapolis to teach at the University of Minnesota. There he met and married Yvonne Blue. They had 2 daughters. Their second daughter became very famous, as she was the first infant to be raised in one of Skinners invention, the air crib. Although it was nothing more than a crib and playpen with glass sides and air conditioning, it looked too much like keeping a baby in an aquarium and it never really caught on.
In 1945, he became the chairman of the psychology department at Indiana University. In 1948, he was invited to come to Harvard, where he remained for the rest of his life. He was a very active man, doing research and guiding hundreds of doctoral candidates as well as writing many books. While not successful as a writer of fiction and poetry, he became one of our best psychology writers, including the book Walden II, which is a fictional account of a community run by his behaviorist principles.
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On August 18, 1990, B. F. Skinner died of leukemia after becoming perhaps the most celebrated psychologist since Sigmund Freud.


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