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date: 07 August 2020

Yerkes, Robert Mearnslocked

(26 May 1876–03 February 1956)
  • James W. Reed


Yerkes, Robert Mearns (26 May 1876–03 February 1956), comparative psychologist, was born in Breadysville, Pennsylvania, the son of Silas Marshall Yerkes and Susanna Addis Carrell, farmers. Yerkes’s childhood as a member of an extended farm family in Bucks County, the vegetable basket of Philadelphia, provided him with an intimate knowledge of nature, a comfortability with such living things as worms, snakes, and farm animals, and a facility for devising mechanical devices to help with his work. From his Presbyterian parents he acquired habits of hard work and moral commitment, as well as nativist pride in the accomplishments of old-stock Americans. Yerkes, who learned early on that he did not want to be a farmer, found a model of male authority in the family physician and escaped his father’s supervision at age fifteen by attending the State Normal School at West Chester and Ursinus Academy and College, where he earned his way as a live-in servant for an uncle who was a medical doctor. Through science and philosophy courses, Yerkes became a convert to evolutionary naturalism and received an A.B. in 1897....

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