Skip to main content

Pratt Lab at Lehigh University

 Collection
Identifier: SC MS 0372
Collection of documents, publications and photographs documenting the Pratt Lab at Lehigh University. Pratt Lab was a psychology experiment laboratory was funded by Pratt Foundation. Contains black and white photographs, 38 file folders of equipment description, manuals of apparatus, Prof. Jenkins reprints of artcles, and Munsell Book of Color.

Dates

  • 1937 - 1983

Conditions Governing Access

Collection housed remotely. Users need to contact 24 hours in advance.

Conditions Governing Use

Collection is open for research.
Copyright Notice Please inquire about copyright information.

Extent

1 Linear Feet (2 boxes)

Overview

Collection of documents, publications and photographs documenting the Pratt Lab at Lehigh University. Pratt Lab was a psychology experiment laboratory was funded by Pratt Foundation. Contains black and white photographs, 38 file folders of equipment description, manuals of apparatus, Prof. Jenkins reprints of artcles, and Munsell Book of Color.

Biographical / Historical

Professor George K. Shortess “inherited” the Bioelectric Lab, also known as the Pratt Lab for his research on the physiological basis of behavior. The Pratt Lab is named for John Lee Pratt (1879-1975), an American businessman, who with his wife, was a great philanthropist donating to universities and research centers. The John Lee Pratt Fund was administered by the Sloan-Kettering Foundation. Mr. Pratt and Alfred P. Sloan knew each other through General Motors where both were employed. Prior to Professor Shortess, the lab was occupied by Nathan B. Gross who was a physiological psychologist at Lehigh 1946-1963 who did his research in Pratt Lab. When Mr. Gross left, he passed the material to Lois, the Psychology Dept. secretary, who in turn gave them to faculty member Art Brody who gave them to Professor John Nyby, who gave them to Professor Shortess who joined the faculty in Fall 1969 as the physiological psychologist in the department until 1994. An early faculty member in the Psychology Department was William Leroy Jenkins who in 1935-39 was Instructor in Psychology, 1939-46 Assistant Professor and from 1946 to unknown time before Professor Gross was Associate Professor and the author of the publication reprints included in the collection. From 1931 through the 1950’s, the head of the Department of Psychology was Adelbert Ford who had the responsibility for getting the Pratt Laboratory built at Lehigh, apparently applying for the grant from the Sloan-Kettering Fund.

The Lehigh Psychology Department from its beginning in the early 20th Century, was heavily oriented to experimental psychology rather than clinical. The Pratt Laboratory (or the Bioelectric Laboratory) provided the facility to carry on that tradition. The official name may have been the J. L. Pratt Bioelectric Laboratory and was located on the second floor of the small building connected to the south side of Williams Hall. Pratt Laboratory was created by an endowment from the John Lee Pratt Fund administered by Sloan-Kettering Foundation around 1950. At first the plan for the Pratt project was to be located in the south side part of the basement of Packer Hall (now University Center) sharing the space with the Civil Engineering Department. Later the Pratt facility was added to the south side of Williams Hall. At that time the Psychology, Biology and Geology Departments shared Williams Hall, reflecting the natural science orientation of Psychology.

The lab design was to allow the recording of very low voltages responses from subjects, such as brain waves, respiratory changes, heart rate, changes in skin conductance, etc. In order to do this effectively the experimenter had to eliminate electrical interference, or noise, generated by normal electrical lines and various equipment such as heating equipment. This was done in part by creating a metal shield around the subject and the recording equipment. The shield was connected to ground to draw off the noise. This was done in Pratt Lab by building the Subject Room with copper mesh on all sides of the room.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Material was transferred to Special Collections by retired Professor George K. Shortess who found the material in his office in Williams Hall Annex and gave to Special Collections June 21, 2019.

Related Materials

Files related to Dept. of Psychology, Prof. Adelbert Ford.

Separated Materials

Series IV: Prof. Jenkins reprints cataloged and shelved in Lehigh Authors collection.

Source

Title
Pratt Lab at Lehigh University
Status
completed
Author
Eleanor Nothelfer and Logan Kramer
Date
2019-06-25
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Lehigh University
Linderman Library
30 Library Drive
Bethlehem PA 18045 USA
610-758-4506
610-758-6091 (Fax)