Howard Andrew Knox

Howard Andrew Knox: Pioneer of Intelligence Testing at Ellis Island

JOHN T. E. RICHARDSON
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 352
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/rich14168
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  • Book Info
    Howard Andrew Knox
    Book Description:

    Howard Andrew Knox (1885--1949) served as assistant surgeon at Ellis Island during the 1910s, administering a range of verbal and nonverbal tests to determine the mental capacity of potential immigrants. An early proponent of nonverbal intelligence testing (largely through the use of formboards and picture puzzles), Knox developed an evaluative approach that today informs the techniques of practitioners and researchers. Whether adapted to measure intelligence and performance in children, military recruits, neurological and psychiatric patients, or the average job applicant, Knox's pioneering methods are part of contemporary psychological practice and deserve in-depth investigation.

    Completing the first biography of this unjustly overlooked figure, John T. E. Richardson, former president of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences, takes stock of Knox's understanding of intelligence and his legacy beyond Ellis Island. Consulting published and unpublished sources, Richardson establishes a chronology of Knox's life, including details of his medical training and his time as a physician for the U.S. Army. He describes the conditions that gave rise to intelligence testing, including the public's concern that the United States was opening its doors to the mentally unfit. He then recounts the development of intelligence tests by Knox and his colleagues and the widely-discussed publication of their research. Their work presents a useful and extremely human portrait of psychological testing and its limits, particularly the predicament of the people examined at Ellis Island. Richardson concludes with the development of Knox's work in later decades and its changing application in conjunction with modern psychological theory.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51211-4
    Subjects: Psychology, Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. IX-X)
  5. FOREWORD
    (pp. XI-XIV)
    Robert J. Sternberg

    Howard Andrew Knox died the year I was born—1949. So we represent two successive life spans in our efforts to understand, investigate, and measure intelligence. I first learned of Knox’s work when I was a teenager. As I was doing a seventh-grade science project on mental testing, I noted some tests that I believed had really memorable and even funny names. The two that most impressed me were the O’Connor Wiggly Block Test and the Knox Cube Test, also called the Knox Cube Imitation Test. In the test an examiner knocks the Knox cubes, and the examinee must do...

  6. PREFACE
    (pp. XV-XVIII)
  7. CHRONOLOGY
    (pp. XIX-XXII)
  8. KEY PEOPLE IN THE TEXT
    (pp. XXIII-XXIV)
  9. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. XXV-XXXIV)

    The history of intelligence testing has been extensively discussed in both learned and popular books and articles. People such as Francis Galton, Alfred Binet, Henry Herbert Goddard, Lewis Madison Terman, Robert Mearns Yerkes, and David Wechsler are all well known to today’s students of psychology, not merely in the United States but in other countries, too. Excellent accounts have been written of their lives and work (Fancher 1998; Frank 1983; Gillham 2001; Minton 1988; J. Reed 1987; Wolf 1973; Zenderland 1998). Moreover, incisive critiques have been written of how intelligence tests have been constructed, how they have been administered, and...

  10. PART I: BEFORE ELLIS ISLAND
    • 1 EARLY YEARS
      (pp. 3-13)

      Howard Andrew Knox was born on March 7, 1885, in Romeo, Michigan, just thirty-two miles north of the center of Detroit in northwestern Macomb County. According to the 1880 census of the United States, Romeo was then a village with just 1,629 inhabitants. Macomb County today is part of the Detroit metropolitan area, but Romeo has retained its identity and character as a village. At the time of the 2000 census the population of Romeo still numbered fewer than four thousand, and many of its nineteenth-century mansions and timber buildings survive.

      Knox was the only child of Howard Reuben Knox...

    • 2 ARMY DAYS
      (pp. 14-32)

      In April 1908 Congress approved the reorganization of the medical department of the army. In particular, it authorized the creation of a medical reserve corps to provide a pool of several hundred medically qualified personnel who could be called to active duty to augment the regular Army Medical Corps (Stewart 2004:374). These personnel would, of course, need to be trained in the techniques of military medicine, so appointments were offered for physicians to be attached to the army through the Medical Reserve Corps.

      That summer Howard Andrew Knox applied for a commission in this new body. His application was successful,...

  11. PART II: THE CONTEXT
    • 3 IMMIGRATION, INTELLIGENCE, AND THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE
      (pp. 35-46)

      For many years the immigration policy of the United States had been largely permissive and not contentious. The main concern had simply been the cost of supporting destitute immigrants. Many seaboard states had initially addressed this concern by requiring a bond or tax to be paid by any immigrant who was likely to become a public charge. However, during the first half of the nineteenth century the states in question tended to supplement or replace this bond with a head tax on all immigrants. This was not popular with commercial interests, especially in inland states that received many immigrants but...

    • 4 THE MEASUREMENT OF INTELLIGENCE
      (pp. 47-68)

      Both researchers seeking to demonstrate the heritability of intelligence and practitioners seeking to classify people as mentally normal or deficient clearly needed some procedure for measuring intelligence. Accordingly, in step with the developments in the conceptualization of intelligence that I mentioned in chapter 3 came developments in the measurement of intelligence.

      In Britain, France, and Germany scholars and practitioners alike had discussed different ways of measuring intelligence since early in the nineteenth century (see Young 1924). However, Francis Galton was one of the first to implement these methods in a practical way.

      In 1851 a royal commission had organized the...

    • 5 AT ELLIS ISLAND
      (pp. 69-94)

      When Howard Knox was appointed to the Public Health and Marine Hospital Service in April 1912, he gave up his general practice in Sheffield, Massachusetts, and he, Gladys, and their daughter, Dorothea, moved to a new home in the neighborhood of Tompkinsville in the northeastern part of the Borough of Richmond. The borough encompassed the whole of Staten Island (and indeed was renamed the Borough of Staten Island in 1975). Today the area is part of the New York metropolis. However, when Knox and his family moved there, it was a very different environment. To begin with, according to the...

  12. PART III: DEVELOPING THE ELLIS ISLAND TESTS
    • 6 THE ELLIS ISLAND TESTS
      (pp. 97-141)

      Howard Knox (1913a) and Bernard Glueck (1913) had identified two major flaws in the notion of using the scale devised by Alfred Binet and Théodore Simon (1908) to identify mental deficiency among emigrants. On the one hand, the scale was effectively testing knowledge of a particular culture and language, and people from countries with different customs, practices, and languages simply would not possess this knowledge. On the other hand, the only comparative data for assessing whether a particular emigrant was mentally deficient had been obtained from French or American schoolchildren, and these data were wholly inappropriate for determining whether people...

    • 7 POPULARIZING THE WORK AT ELLIS ISLAND
      (pp. 142-167)

      Prodded by the office of the surgeon general, Knox and his colleagues began to popularize their work through articles in newspapers and magazines, presentations at conferences and to local medical associations, and finally through a manual for the mental examination of emigrants. Nothing had come of the letter Knox had received in October 1912 asking him to suggest three articles on matters relating to hygiene and the public health. The surgeon general had sent the form letter to all commissioned officers in the Public Health Service. Knox had duly suggested three titles, but there is no evidence he ever wrote...

    • 8 PRACTICAL ISSUES IN INTELLIGENCE TESTING
      (pp. 168-185)

      In their various publications Knox and his colleagues raised a number of interesting issues about intelligence and intelligence testing in the particular context of the inspection of emigrants. The primary issue was the validity of the process of line inspection. Both Knox (1913c, 1914b) and Assistant Surgeon Carlisle Knight (1913) had written in defense of the validity of line inspection as carried out by experienced physicians. Whether they were genuinely convinced of this is not entirely clear. When Assistant Surgeon Grover Kempf was interviewed many years later in 1977, he recalled: “The mental examination of immigrants was always haphazard. It...

    • 9 AFTER ELLIS ISLAND
      (pp. 186-194)

      On May 4, 1916, Howard Knox resigned his commission in the Public Health Service. Several factors may have contributed to his decision. On the one hand, by this point most of Knox’s contribution had been excised from the Manual of the Mental Examination of Aliens, and he seems subsequently to have ascribed the responsibility for this to the intervention of Claude Lavinder. On the other hand, in April 1916 Knox was being considered for promotion to the grade of passed assistant surgeon, and it is conceivable that his application for promotion turned out to be unsuccessful.

      The most immediate circumstance...

  13. PART IV: THE LEGACY
    • 10 DEVELOPING PERFORMANCE SCALES
      (pp. 197-217)

      Although Howard Knox worked at Ellis Island for only four years (May 1912 to May 1916), he and his colleagues produced a remarkable array of diverse psychological tests. These are summarized in table 10.1, together with the publications in which they were first described. They were made available just as interest in the measurement of intelligence and appreciation of the limitations of strictly verbal tests were increasing. It is therefore not surprising that Knox’s tests were widely borrowed and adapted in the test batteries subsequently devised to measure intelligence during the next thirty years. Before I consider how they were...

    • 11 BORROWING THE ELLIS ISLAND TESTS
      (pp. 218-240)

      Although Howard Knox had written various popular accounts of the work at Ellis Island, formal descriptions of his tests were published mainly in medical journals. Initially, therefore, the Ellis Island tests were not well known to psychologists. For instance, for ten years, from 1911 to 1920, Frank Nugent Freeman, director of the School of Education at the University of Chicago, wrote brief annual surveys of the latest developments in mental testing for the Psychological Bulletin. His review for 1914 listed one of Knox’s papers (Knox 1913g), and Freeman’s review for 1919 referred in passing to the “Knox Cube Test,” although...

    • 12 WHAT DO PERFORMANCE TESTS MEASURE?
      (pp. 241-249)

      The idea of a performance test has been around for roughly a hundred years. Howard Knox first used the term in his own writings in September 1913 (Knox 1913e), but at that point it seems already to have been in common use in discourse about intelligence and intelligence testing. Since his work at Ellis Island there have been different views about what performance tests actually measure. This chapter considers the ways in which the phrase “performance test” has been used and then discusses three kinds of contemporary evidence to suggest that the distinction between verbal and performance tests may not...

    • 13 AN APPRAISAL
      (pp. 250-272)

      In this concluding chapter I examine Howard Knox’s life and work from a number of different points of view. What can one say about Knox’s involvement in and commitment to the development of intelligence tests? What role did Knox himself play in devising the Ellis Island tests, and how much were they subsequently used? Did Knox really succeed in finding a way of differentiating between moronism and ignorance? Was Knox himself a eugenicist or a racist? Finally, I describe the neglect and rediscovery of the Ellis Island tests in the second half of the twentieth century, a process that has...

  14. REFERENCES
    (pp. 273-296)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 297-310)