|The Tudor Study
EXAMPLES OF WENDELL JOHNSON'S WRITING
My father -- known to me as "Dad," to his
students as "Dr. Wendell Johnson," and to his close friends as "Jack" --
was my best friend. This page, and its links, have been created as a cyberspace
memorial to his
|memory -- and as a ready reference source for today's students and
practitioners of speech pathology and of general semantics.
I believe it is an appropriate medium for such a memorial. Thirty-five years ago Dad wrote of his electronics hobby -- at that time the work he was doing with audio tape recorders,* including the invention of a rather ingenious dual-deck machine to enable individuals to hear, and react to, their own speech. I am confident that, had he been alive in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he would have been among the first to be exploring a PC, the Internet and Web.
Born in Roxbury, Kansas, in 1906, he died in Iowa City, Iowa, in 1965. He was then 59; I was 30. A writer, he literally died with a pen in his hand, drafting the entry on "Speech Defects" for the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Dad began life as a stutterer. As he put it, he became a speech pathologist because he needed one. He was one of the world's first in the 1920s and 1930s at the University of Iowa.
_______________* See, for example, the reference in the last section of his curriculum vitae (the essay headed "Sidelights"), and the chapter from Living With Change at page 185.
That fact is relevant to this Web site. (1) It is because he was that kind of a person that I think it is worth my time -- and yours -- to be reminded of him through the material available here. (2) There are still many individuals who knew him personally. If they have access to the Web, it may be more pleasant than sad for them to visit again in this way with their old friend "Jack." (3) The new waves of students, teachers and practitioners of speech pathology -- and of general semantics -- may find these links a useful way to satisfy some curiosity about this early pioneer in their specialties of study and practice. It would be an odd science indeed if all of his half-century-old insights and theories were still thought valid today; but they will always constitute the origins of these fields. (4) But it is also relevant because this page, and its links, are the product of those thousands of individuals. They literally wrote some of the introductory pieces linked below. They certainly inspired, and contributed to, Dad's 35 years of research and writing (1930-1965). And it is they, and their successors, who are carrying it on today. (As an inadequate tip of the iceberg, here is a list of the authors of doctoral dissertations awarded by the Iowa program from 1928 through 1954. For what is probably the most thorough history of that program, see Dorothy Moeller, Speech Pathology & Audiology: Iowa Origins of a Discipline (Iowa City: The University of Iowa, 1975).)
Just as the consequences of Dad's work live on, and change from day to day, so too does this Web site. Contribute your own building block. Send me your suggestions -- of links that might be included to material already on the Web, links you've created back to this page, anecdotes you'd like to share, text or photos you think should be scanned and linked. Just click on the highlighted e-mail address, fill out the form with your message, and send it to me. If you'd like to look through the rest of the site first, do that.
The University of Iowa was central
to Dad's professional life. The photo at the top of this page shows him
in front of that University's central landmark, "The Old Capitol." He arrived
in Iowa City in 1926, earned a B.A. with honors in English in 1928, and
two degrees in psychology: an M.A. in 1929 and Ph.D. in 1931. He spent
much of his life attempting to create the Department of Speech Pathology
and Audiology which now exists at Iowa, and is housed in the Center which
bears his name, and was built after his death, the Wendell
Johnson Speech and Hearing Clinic (click on "Clinical Services" and
|Not incidentally, he met my mother, Edna, at the University of Iowa. Born in 1905, she had also grown up in a farm family -- one of three girls near Galva, Iowa. At the University she further developed her abilities as a talented poet and dancer, and probably became, if anything, Dad's academic better. I returned to Iowa City from Washington in 1980, in largest measure to be with her following her cancer surgery. It was some of our best time together. She died peacefully at home in 1989, quoting poetry at length and exhibiting her wry humor until the end.|
Another student, Joseph L. Stewart -- who wrote Mother every year on the anniversary of Dad's death -- has provided a longer and more detailed essay of reminiscence in that same issue of ETC. It is called, simply, "Wendell Johnson: A Memoir."
His masters thesis was published commercially by D. Appleton in 1930. That fact alone represents no mean accomplishment! The book has, of course, long been out of print -- although it is still covered by copyright. There are, to the best of my knowledge, no copies available, even from used book stores. Copies have been lost from some libraries. Thus, this Web site is, so far as I know, one of the few sources for the book. The text has been scanned and is available here in full, subject to the copyright terms explained within the text.
The book is titled Because I Stutter. Even discounting for the fact he was my father, I think you will share my sense that it is a remarkable work for a 23-year-old: beautifully written, unusually candid and insightful self-revelation, illustration of how one's origins affect destinations, description of life in 1910s and 1920s America, and, of course, a speech pathology classic -- one of the first works of any kind about "stuttering," and still one of the very rare descriptions of feelings and function from the perspective of the stutterer.
Just as Because I Stutter provides insights into all youth, especially those with disabilities of some kind, and not just stutterers, so does Stuttering and What You Can Do About It offer far more than a "how to" cure for stuttering. It is a case study. It is a mystery story. It is a case study of how Dad, and his colleagues at Iowa, went about designing and executing scientific research regarding a phenomenon about which virtually nothing was known. There was no "library research" to be done; no teachers, consultants, or experts to help. The story of what they did, and when, and why, and then what, can provide insight for others confronting comparably original research assignments. How they formulated, and then answered, the questions is a mystery story unfolding. (Of course, the book also provides some useful guidance and insight for parents and stutterers.)
The whole book is not here. It is available in libraries. What is excerpted here are the dedication, or introduction, "With Appreciation and Best Wishes," and the first chapter, "In Search of Beginnings and Endings." Click here for these excerpts from Stuttering and What You Can Do About It.
Among the many professional organizations he helped organize or serve
in one way or another is what was originally the American Speech and Hearing
Association -- now the American Speech-Language-Hearing
Association and some 87,000 members strong -- which he served as President,
and for which he helped create the American Speech and Hearing Foundation.
|This is (1) a photo, (2) of a painting, (3) of a photo. In the lobby of the Wendell Johnson Speech and Hearing Clinic building hangs a large work painted by Cloy Kent after Dad died. The family thought her choice of scene captured his spirit better than a stiff, staged pose with hand on globe or back of chair. Ms. Kent studied many photos, and drew on them all -- but especially one of him engaged in one of the things he loved best: one-on-one clinical work, especially with young children. Since the original creation of this memorial Web page, the answer to the burning question, "Who is that boy in the picture?" has been found -- along with a wonderful story of life in the early 1960s with Dad and his students.|
To grossly oversimplify, general semantics is the study of the ways in which our language structure can affect our behavior -- and often not for the better. As Dad used to say, "Humans are the only animals able to talk themselves into difficulties that would not otherwise exist." As a result, general semantics is a valuable set of tools and skills to bring to any undertaking, from managing a drug store to engaging in the highest levels of international diplomacy. It has been used to advantage by professionals in virtually every academic and professional discipline.
If you would like to read a brief introduction and overview, take a look at his "The Communication Process and General Semantic Principles" (from Wilbur Schramm, Mass Communications (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2d ed. 1975). I am indebted to Carmen Clark (the moderator of the Science and Sanity Reading List) for reminding me of this paper when I was searching for a brief reading for my law students.
As a young boy I found in these tools a power of heady proportions
in interacting with our learned, adult house guests. You may find of interest
a nostalgic piece of mine about growing up in the home of one of the founders
of general semantics. It was presented as the 1995 Alfred
Korzybski Memorial Lecture for the Institute
of General Semantics.
The book of Dad's that probably garnered the most devoted adherents, sold the most copies, and stayed in print the longest (it is still available from the International Society for General Semantics; all royalties go to ISGS) is People in Quandaries: The Semantics of Personal Adjustment, published by Harper & Brothers in 1946. Because the entire book is still widely available in libraries -- and from ISGS, and is protected by copyright -- only one chapter is linked here by way of illustration. If that chapter interests you in reading more you can easily find the book.
One of general semantics' most popular areas of application is the field of psychology. Dad describes what he calls the "IFD" disease as one of the most common maladies he encountered as a consulting psychologist. It's a chapter I have often shared with friends. And I share it now with you. He titled it "Verbal Cocoons".
However, the book that he most enjoyed creating, and thought perhaps his best writing, was titled Your Most Enchanted Listener (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1956). (It was also published in paperback under the title Verbal Man: The Enchantment of Words (New York: Collier Books, 1965, No. 04669.) The excerpts here are chapter 1 ("There Might Once Have Been a Wise Old Frenchman") and chapter 7 ("Seeing What Stares Us in the Face"). The former is a charming introduction; the latter a succinct statement of his view of a scientific method that can be applied to everyday life. Here are those excerpts from Your Most Enchanted Listener.
Following his death, his colleague, Dorothy Moeller, produced from
his unpublished writing and lectures a marvelous little book entitled Living
With Change: The Semantics of Coping (New York: Harper
& Row, 1972), also in paperback. (She described the authors as
"Observations by Wendell Johnson Selected and Synthesized by Dorothy Moeller.")
In an age when business, and other literature, is emphasizing the need
to observe, innovate, and deal with rapid change in creative ways, Living
With Change seems especially timely. Here is an excerpt from Living
At least the first introductory pages of Nicholas Johnson's "Retroactive Ethical Judgments and Human Subjects Research." It was published as Chapter 9 of Ethics: A Case Study from Fluency, Robert Goldfarb, editor, December 2005 ("Retroactive Ethical Judgments and Human Subjects Research: The 1939 Tudor Study in Context"), and available here as a pdf file from that link. It is also available in its prior version, "Retroactive Ethical Judgments and Human Subjects Research: The 1939 Tudor Study" -- a paper presented, by invitation, at a City University of New York symposium in December 2002. The entire Goldfarb book, not available online, is devoted to an academic assessment of the Tudor study by speech pathology professionals.
The lawsuit (Nixon v. University of Iowa) ultimately fizzled out for the plaintiffs. Depositions disclosed that the initial, sensationalist journalistic report -- by a reporter who was immediately let go by his paper for ethical violations (involving his misrepresentation of his role as a reporter) -- although unknown to his editor or the public at the time, was buttressed in part by a plaintiff's statement that had been, in fact, dictated by that reporter following which he obtained her vow of silence (regarding the fact both knew it to be false). The best judgment of speech pathologist professionals was that the study did not, and could not have, caused "stuttering" in the subjects. Some subjects fluency actually improved. Their subsequent medical records did not support assertions of impaired speech. Documentation can be found in the State's motions for summary judgment, available from the Web site of the Stuttering Foundation: Defendant's Memorandum in Support of Second Motion for Summary Judgment and Defendant's Statement of Material Facts for Purposes of Summary Judgment (both filed July 13, 2007). See also the linked letter to the editor of USAToday from Stuttering Foundation President Jane Fraser of August 30, 2007. As a result of these and other facts the plaintiffs' lawyers ultimtely had to settle their way out of the case for less than 7% of what they had originally asked.
Following the dismissal of the lawsuit the local paper editorialized, Editorial, "Was the 'Monster Study' Really So Monstrous?" Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 22, 2007. A couple of earlier relevant articles in the eastern Iowa Gazette are also linked: Tom Owen, "When Words Hurt: Stuttering Story Missed the Mark" and "UI Professor's Son Defends Him, Research," both July 13, 2003. See also the "Human Subjects Research Ethics" site for additional, related information.
This page was last updated July 18, 2000; the reference to the text
of the December 2002 CUNY lecture, "Retroactive Ethical Judgments . . .,"
was added July 6, 2003, the link to the streaming
audio files of Wendell Jonson's general semantics lectures on June
29, 2004, and to the published version of "Retroactive Ethical Judgments"
on February 9, 2006. Updates on the lawsuit were added September 11, 2007.
-- Nicholas Johnson
|Dad and I in the Cabinet Room at the White House. We are standing before a podium with the Presidential seal. It is March 1, 1964, and President Lyndon B. Johnson is having me sworn in as the U.S. Maritime Administrator. All my life to that point I had often been referred to as "Wendell Johnson's son" -- and proud to be. On this occasion, a reporter approached Dad and said, "You must be Nicholas Johnson's father." Dad often told the story and, as you can see, was seemingly even more pleased with the occasion -- and his new title -- than was the new, 29-year-old Maritime Administrator.|