Alfred Binet has made significant contributions within the field of psychology, although most of his research did not gain the popularity it deserved. He is most recognized for his development of the first standardized intelligence test, even though for most of his career he was focused on many other areas. The purpose of this paper is to explore the life of Alfred Binet up until his death, going into greater detail in many areas of his research, how he has contributed to today’s knowledge in the field of psychology, and why he is not as recognized as he should be for his discoveries.
Binet was born in 1857 in Nice, France, and was the only child of wealthy parents; his father, Edoardo Binet, a physician, and his mother, Moina Allard, an artist. After his parents went through a divorce, he lived solely with his mother. At age 15 they both moved to Paris where he completed high school, and then went ahead and earned his law degree at the University of Paris, in 1878. He never ended up practicing law or trying to start a legal practice of his own; instead he briefly attended medical school before eventually dropping out.
Surprisingly, Alfred Binet never received any formal schooling in psychology and is considered to be a self-taught psychologist. After his attempt and eventual drop from medical school, he began reading books in the National Library of Paris in 1879 and gained interest in the field of psychology. On his own, he studied the theories, and read the books and articles of many of the major psychological thinkers, including: Taine and Ribot, with a focus on the associationists Alexander Bain, Herbert Spencer, and John Stuart Mill. By 1880, Binet published his first article on the two-point threshold in Revue philosophique, with the help of Ribot’s sponsorship. The article had many errors, leading to the first of many critiques of Binet’s work by Belgian physiologist Joseph Delboeuf. In 1882 Joseph Babinski, a former classmate of Binet’s and at this time was now a neurologist introduced Binet to Jean Martin Charcot and Charles Fere. Both Charcot and Fere worked at the Salpetriere, a teaching hospital in Paris, which is now one of the largest in all of Europe.
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