The 1909 Conferences
Clark University has a history of bringing together different sciences to examine human and social problems, and the psychology department has played a leading role in the synthesis of such ideas. By 1909, Clark University was one of America's foremost institutions of graduate education and had gained international prominence as a center of scholarship.
To observe the twentieth anniversary of the University's founding as the second graduate school in the United States, President G. Stanley Hall scheduled a series of conferences in July and September 1909. Hall intended the conferences to reflect the University's major areas of study. The five-day July event was a national conference on child welfare that brought together a variety of speakers representing the range of child welfare issues. In the fall, two weeks of conferences were held in other fields that were strengths at Clark from the beginning: psychology and pedagogy (education), physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology and history/international relations (a conference on China and the Far East).
Each conference covered a range of topics, including many ground-breaking ideas. Sessions were also held throughout the September conferences that promoted the best methods of teaching for each discipline. Conference speakers came from Clark's faculty, from across the United States, and from abroad, and they were leaders and pioneers in their fields. Sigmund Freud was the speaker who would perhaps be best known today.
Honorary degrees were given to 21 of the guest lecturers, including Freud (the only such academic honor he ever received), Carl Jung (at age 34, Clark's youngest honorary degree recipient to date), pioneering anthropologist Franz Boas, and physicists Ernest Rutherford and Albert A. Michelson.
President Hall's vision for the 1909 conference and the legacies that emerged from it are still central to Clark's philosophy today: Challenge Convention, Change Our World.