David Wechsler was a well-known, Romanian-American psychologist from the twentieth century. He is best known for the intelligence scales he developed, which are still in use today.
David Wechsler’s Early Life
David Wechsler was born on January 12, 1896, to a Jewish family in Lespedi, Romania. He lived there only a short while before emigrating to the United States with his family as a child. In America, he attended college at the City College of New York and then Columbia University, where he earned a master’s degree in 1917 and a Ph.D. in experimental psychology in 1925, studying under Robert Woodworth.
Wechsler’s Work and Achievements
Wechsler worked with the United States Army in 1917 during World War I as an Army Psychologist at Camp Logan, Texas. In 1918, the Army sent him to London to work with Charles Spearman and Karl Pearson, where he developed psychological tests to screen new draftees. From 1922 to 1925, Wechsler worked as a clinical psychologist at the Bureau of Child Guidance in New York, and from 1925 to 1932 he ran his own private practice as a clinical psychologist. After these short careers in various locations, Wechsler became the chief psychologist at Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital in New York City from 1932 to 1967. It was at Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital that Wechsler developed his most famous achievement, his intelligence scales.
Wechsler’s Intelligence Scales
Wechsler operated on the assumption that intelligence is a person’s total ability to act purposefully, to think rationally, and to deal effectively with his or her environment, and he believed that intelligent behavior was comprised of more than just intellectual ability. Thus, he disliked the then-current Binet IQ test, which directly measured only intellectual ability, so he developed his own intelligence tests in order to better understand his patients at Bellevue.
The first test he developed was the Wechsler-Bellevue Intelligence Test in 1939, which was revised and renamed the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) in 1955. From his first test, he developed two more tests, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) in 1949 and the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI) in 1967.
These tests are still in use today and are now updated every ten years, and new tests are even being developed from them. The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale can be used to test adults between sixteen and eighty-nine years of age. The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, the most popular Wechsler intelligence scale, can be used to test children between six and sixteen years of age. The test gives an IQ score as well as results in four categories: verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory, and processing speed.
Wechsler’s Later Life
After leaving Bellevue in 1967, Wechsler mainly worked on revising and updating his intelligence scales. He updated the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children in 1974, and he again revised the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale in 1981. David Wechsler died on May 2, 1981, in New York City at ninety-five years of age.