Hermann Ebbinghaus

Study of Memory

Early life

Hermann Ebbinghaus was born in Germany to a wealthy family. When he was 17 he went to the University of Bonn, where he studied history and philology (the study of language in written historical sources). However during his time at the University he started to develop a strong interest in philosophy. During the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Hermann went to serve the military which interrupted his studies. However later on he earned his doctorate when he was 23, on August 1873. After this he travelled around in Halle and Berlin.

Professional career

After earning his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Hermann moved around England and France where he tutored students for a living. When he was in London, he came across a library where his found the book “Elements of Psychopsychics” which inspired him to conduct his famous memory experiments. Ebbinghaus began to study at the University of Berlin and he founded the 3rd psychological testing lab in Germany. He studied memory for 6 years and he published his findings into his book ‘Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology’. Because of his success, hard work and great intelligence, he was made a professor at Berlin University.

Ebbinghaus’ Contribution to Science

He discovered many things including:

o Discovery of the Forgetting Curve

o Discovery of the Spacing Effect

o Discovery of the Learning Curve

o Discovery of the Serial Positioning Effect

o Discovery of the Recency Effect

o Discovery of the Savings Effect

o Discovery of the Overlearning Effect

o Finding the difference between voluntary and involuntary memory

o Introduction of the modern way of writing scientific articles

o Sentence completion as intelligence test for school children

o Discovery of the Ebbinghaus illusion (optical illusion)