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 Consulting published and unpublished sources,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.
Subjects: Psychology, Sociology, History
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