William James was one of the forefathers of modern psychology. He was a philosopher and psychologist, but was most well known in the field of psychology for developing the philosophy of pragmatism, or the functionalist theory: "Theory of mental life and behavior that is concerned with how an organism uses its perceptual abilities to function in its environment." James was the most widely read author of the 1900's. In 1890 James published a book called "The Principles of Psychology," which was considered a classic. William James was also the first psychologist to be born in America.
The American philosopher-psychologist William James was born in New York City in 1842 to the religious philosopher Henry James Sr. and his wife Mary Walsh. Throughout his childhood, James attended private schools in the United States and Europe and was also privately tutored. At the age of seventeen, James wanted to become a painter. His father who wanted him to study science or to become a philosopher, strongly disapproved. Believing that it would serve as a distraction and hopefully change William's mind, his father took the family to Europe for a year. William would not be deterred. Through constant persistence he finally won and was permitted to study art in Newport, Rhode Island with artist William Hunt. After about a year and a half of studying painting, James decided that maybe he wasn't gifted enough to be an artist.
In 1861 James joined the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard University and began the study of chemistry. While at Harvard, James also studied anatomy and physiology under the naturalist Louis Agassiz. It was during this time that the American.
Civil war began, but due to numerous health issues James did not enlist. In 1864 James entered Harvard Medical School, and in 1869 he graduated with an M.