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This argument notwithstanding, Ueberwasser still seems to be the first academic to have considered himself a psychologist so that Ueberwasser as well as Fürstenberg certainly deserve prominent places in the (pre-) history of scientific psychology.
Both authors were involved in the historiographical research leading to this opinion paper. Die Tätigkeit des Ministers Franz Freiherrn von Fürstenberg auf dem Gebiet der inneren Politik des Fürstbistums Münster 1763 – 1780 [The Work of Minister Franz Freiherr von Fürstenberg on the Subject of Inner Politics of the Prince-Bishopric of Münster].
To our knowledge this was not the case however (Biunde, 1832) so that it would take another 100 years after the publication of Ueberwasser's “Instructions for the regular study of empirical psychology” for psychology to finally establish a foothold in the system of the sciences.
Until there is evidence to link Ueberwassers achievements to any of the developments that paved the way for modern scientific, experimental psychology, we therefore argue that the founding moment of modern scientific psychology should still be dated to the foundation of Wundt's laboratory in 1879. Geschichte der Mathematik an der Universität Münster - Teil I: 1773–1945 [History of Mathematics at the University of Münster - Part 1: 1773–1945].
That is, while other pioneers of a scientific and experimental approach to psychological questions such as Weber (1795–1878), Fechner (1801–1887) or Helmholtz (1821–1894) did not consider themselves psychologists, Ueberwasser and Wundt both attempted to establish psychology as an independent field of study, explicitly portraying themselves as psychologists.
In addition to these structural similarities, Ueberwasser's and Wundt's conceptions of scientific psychology also converge on a number of critical theoretical aspects.
The educational part of these reforms included a seminal commitment to psychology, with Fürstenberg declaring psychology as a “core science” to be taught at every school within the territory (von Fürstenberg, 1776).
Soon after, Fürstenberg was granted the right to establish a university in the city of Münster (Pieper, 1902).
This state of affairs changed, however, when his successor Ferdinand Ueberwasser (1752–1812) was appointed professor of philosophy in 1783 (Schwarz and Pfister, 2016; cf. In contrast to typical views of his contemporaries, Ueberwasser did not subsume psychology under the field of metaphysics, but rather followed Fürstenberg's plea for conceptualizing psychology as a science of its own.
These commonalities beg the question of whether Ueberwasser's legacy should be construed either as an early precursor of contemporary psychology or, alternatively, whether it deserves even stronger recognition in terms of a founding date of scientific psychology?
We believe that—despite being outstanding and unparalleled at their time—Ueberwasser's achievements still fall short of a true foundation of scientific psychology, for the sole reason that his works did not establish a continued tradition of scientific psychology in the academic system nor do they seem to have been pivotal at inspiring later developments, particularly early psychophysical work (e.g., Fechner, 1860), or Wundt's comprehensive approach to psychology (cf. Rather, Ueberwasser's legacy seems to have disappeared relatively quickly, so that only few references to his work appear even in writings that were published shortly after his death, i.e., at the outset of the nineteenth century (Carus, 1808; Biunde, 1832). Prior to his academic appointments, Ueberwasser had been a novice in the Society of Jesus, thus pursuing a clerical career.
Both also favor clear connections between philosophy and psychology, thus arguing against a pure natural science approach to psychological phenomena but rather advocating a unique approach to psychological questions.
Finally, both promote repeated observation in controlled, structured contexts to establish generalizable and replicable findings.