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Frank Nugent Freeman (17 April 1880–17 October 1961) was born in Rockwood, Ontario, Canada, to John Weldon and Amanda T. (Nugent) Freeman. At the age of nine, he moved with his family to the United States.

While he attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, Freeman’s interest in philosophy gravitated toward the fledgling discipline of psychology. He graduated from Wesleyan in 1904 with a bachelor’s degree and continued to study psychology at Yale University, where he earned a master’s degree in 1906 and a Ph.D. in 1908. He was mentored at Yale by Charles H. Judd who received his Ph.D. at Leipzig University in Germany under Wilhelm Wundt, the father of experimental psychology. Judd was well known for applying Wundt's philosophy and methodology to the psychological factors of education.

While studying for his doctorate, Freeman served as an assistant at Yale and was an acting professor at Washington College in Maryland. After he received his Ph.D., Freeman spent a year at Leipzig University as a Yale traveling fellow. While there, he was further influenced by Wundt’s experimental psychology.
Freeman returned to the United States in 1909 and joined the faculty of the University of Chicago where he was Director of the School of Education. For 30 years, Freeman taught educational psychology at Chicago and served as Director of the Orthogenic School for students with emotional and behavioral problems. He rose to the position of Chairman of the Department of Psychology before he moved to the University of California at Berkeley in 1939. At Berkeley, he served as Professor of Educational Psychology and, eventually, Dean of the School of Education. He retired from Berkeley in 1948 as Professor Emeritus.

Freeman’s contributions came at a time when debate in psychology had shifted from philosophical speculations to scientific investigation. His writings demonstrate his interest in several areas, including handwriting, the application of scientific method to problems in education, the effects of new media and technology on education, the principles and applications of mental tests, and heredity versus environment in psychological development. Two of Freeman’s books stand out as having particular significance, Mental Tests: Their History, Principles and Applications (1926) and Twins: A Study of Heredity and Environment (1937).

Mental Tests was a university textbook that offered a critical and comprehensive look at the state of mental tests. Psychologist Lee Cronbach (1967, 67–68) wrote that this pivotal book “stands at the divide between the catalogue of test descriptions and the modern text that covers general principles of testing and measurement theory.” According to Cronbach, Freeman’s close examination of the principles and limitations of mental tests grounded in empirical evidence rather than psychological theory helped lay the groundwork for the next generation of investigation.

Twins: A Study of Heredity and Environment was a groundbreaking scientific investigation into the nature/nurture issue, which was hotly debated among psychologists. In a collaborative effort, Freeman, H. H. Newman, and K. J. Holzinger, after years of seeking out subjects, were able to examine a statistically significant number of fraternal and identical twins who were raised apart and together. Batteries of psychological tests were administered. The results were correlated in an attempt to shed light on the relative effects of heredity and environment. No definitive conclusions could be drawn from their research to shed light on the controversy. Their summation was that the human animal was far more complex than imagined. However, the scientific integrity of the study was so powerful that the work is still referenced today.

In his later writings, Freeman reflected on both the strengths and weaknesses of a purely scientific approach to the study of education. His work in educational psychology was recognized in 1939 by Wesleyan University with an honorary Doctor of Science degree. He also was awarded an LL.D. in 1951 by the University of California.

Freeman’s broad and enthusiastic involvement in professional organizations demonstrated the scope of his interests and influence:


After retirement in 1948, Freeman taught as a visiting professor at the University of Hawaii and lectured at the University of Southern California. At age 81, just a few days before his death, Freeman chaired meetings of the Handwriting Association in Chicago. In addition to his professional interest in psychology and education, he was an award-winning photographer. A box containing correspondence and manuscripts by Freeman from his tenure at the University of California is housed at Berkeley’s Bancroft Library. In addition to article manuscripts, these papers include materials related to conferences on junior colleges and to preparations for the 1947 yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education.

Contributed by Terry E. Martin, Baylor University

References
__________. 2003. Online archive of California: Frank Nugent Freeman papers, 1939–1947. Berkeley, Calif.: Regents of the University of California. Available at: http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt8c60067f

Cattell, J. M., J. Cattell, and E. E. Ross, ed. 1941. Leaders in education, a biographical directory. New York: The Science Press. Cronbach, L. J. 1967. ‘Mental tests’ by Frank N. Freeman. The School Review 75(1): 67–75.

Murchison, C., ed. 1929. The psychological register. Worchester, Mass.: Clark University Press.

Ohles, J. F., ed. 1978. Biographical dictionary of American educators. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. Russell, D. H., R. M. Eakin, and E. T. Grether. 1963. In memoriam: Frank Nugent Freeman. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California History Digital Archives. Zusne, L., ed. 1975. Names in the history of psychology: A biographical sourcebook. Wash., DC: Hemisphere Publishing Corporation.

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