Leonard Carmichael


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(1898–1973). American psychobiologist, educator, and administrator. He was born in Philadelphia, and educated at Tufts University and Harvard.

Beginning in his student days Carmichael was attracted to the fields of animal behaviour, neuroembryology, neuroanatomy, and neurophysiology. These were topics which guided his considerable research efforts early in his career and which remained central to his scientific interests throughout his life. He was the first academic psychologist to study the prenatal origins of behaviour. In a series of now classic experiments begun during his first academic post at Princeton in 1924–5, Carmichael (1926) attempted to determine whether the experimental suppression of all motor behaviour in developing frog embryos, by the use of a paralytic anaesthetic, would impair the normal development and manifestation of swimming in the hatched tadpole. He found that the treatment had little if any effect on later behaviour; the treated tadpoles swam as efficiently as normal frogs. This was one of the first scientific demonstrations that practice, use, or experience during early development is not necessarily critical for normal neurobehavioural development. In subsequent years Carmichael and his students conducted important and extensive pioneering studies on fetal behaviour and physiology in mammals.


From The Oxford Companion to the Mind in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Psychology.