ACCESS: This collection is open to the public upon request.
COPYRIGHT: Please consult the archivist for information about duplication or publishing of any materials from this collection.
RELATED COLLECTIONS: The Archives of the History of American Psychology at the University of Akron holds records related to Ferster dating from 1956-1969.
Charles Bohris Ferster, a psychologist, researcher and educator, was born 1 Nov. 1922 in Freehold, N.J. to Julius B. and Molly Madwin Ferster. He graduated with a BS from Rutgers University in 1947, and went on to earn an MA in 1948 and a PhD in 1950 from Columbia University. Ferster married Elyce Zenoff in 1964, and together they had four children: William, Andrea, Sam and Warren.
A behavioral psychologist, Ferster’s research touched on a wide range of issues, from behavioral approaches to the treatment of autism and depression to developing progressive approaches to teaching and learning. Ferster collaborated with B.F. Skinner during five years of research on intermittent reinforcement, which culminated in the publication of Schedules of Reinforcement in 1957.
Ferster held research positions at Harvard (1950-1955) and Yerkes Laboratories of Primate Biology (1955-1957) as well as a professorial position at Indiana School of Medicine (1957-1962). He served as executive director at the Institute for Behavioral Research in Silver Spring, M.D. (1962-1966) and as professor at Georgetown University (1966-1968).
Ferster joined the faculty of American University in 1969, served as chairman of the psychology department and eventually became director of the Learning Center, a progressive, multidisciplinary approach to teaching and learning. He died of a heart attack on 3 February 1981.
Scope and Content Note
This collection contains correspondence, lectures, articles, research (including federal grant studies) and course material related to Ferster’s tenure at American University (1968-1981). Many items, especially manuscripts and notes, are undated, untitled and/or unsigned. This collection does not include personal papers or professional writings that do not coincide with Ferster’s time at AU. A personnel file containing administrative documents related to Ferster’s employment, including his CV, is housed separately in the American University Archives. This collection contains restricted material related to Ferster’s clinical consultancy at the D.C. Institute.
Arrangement of this collection is alphabetical by document type. Arrangement within the document types is chronological, except where material is undated or dated inconsistently. For ease of organization, writings by others are arranged alphabetically by article title. Course Material (lecture notes, syllabi, etc.,) is grouped, wherever possible, by course title.