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Edwin Garrigues Boring: 1886-1968

Julian Jaynes
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 1969, 5 (2): 99-112.
Reprinted in Marcel Kuijsten (ed.), The Julian Jaynes Collection (Julian Jaynes Society, 2012).


Some men dominate an area of their time by growing admiration on themselves. A few by the affection they instill. Others by power over positions and events. Still others by the genius of their work. Edwin G. Boring dominated his area by none of these. His quality was more complex, sprawling, elusive, intensely personal, without copy or example. It was a blend of deep personal yearnings to love and be loved, to be powerful yet right in the exercise of that power, to be famous yet beget fame in others, to achieve order and establish patterns of merit, and that with a merciless integrity whose fierceness appalled less disciplined men. In 1892, he was a small, unwanted, enuretic, excitable boy, forbidden playmates by insensitive parents, imprisoned upstairs with his feminine imaginary playmate "Mamie," who had a repeated paranoic fantasy of marching down into that matriarchal adult world and shouting "I have found you out!" Three quarters of a century later in 1966, he awoke one night in an absolute darkness, stumbled up out of bed onto some huge plain screaming for lights and for someone to answer him, when suddenly the place he had stumbled to became embathed in search lights and the whole scene turned into a carnival that somehow made him the center of attention, at which point he awoke again, realizing his previous awakening had been a dream, and that he was an old man lying on a hospital cot in stillman infirmary dying of a progressive unhealable breaking of his bones. Between these two events was one of the great careers in modern psychology.