Rivers W H R.JPG

NameRivers; William Halse Rivers (1864-1922); Dr; FRCP, FRS
ForenamesWilliam Halse Rivers
Epithet FRCP, FRS
Parallel NameW H R Rivers
Other NamesWilliam Halse Rivers
DatesAndPlacesBorn 12 March 1864 Chatham Kent, died 4 June 1922 Evelyn Nursing Home, Cambridge
Tonbridge, Kent 1877-1880
London 1880-1886
Japan & America 1887
Chichester 1888-1889
London 1889-1891
Jena, Germany / 1891
London 1892
Cambridge & Heidelberg 1893- 1897
Torres Strait, New Guinea 1898
Cambridge 1899-1901
South-West India 1901/1902
Cambridge 1902- 1907
Melanesia & Polynesia 1907/1908
Cambridge 1908-1914
New Hebrides 1914/1915
Maghull, Lancashire 1915
Edinburgh 1916
London 1917-1919
Cambridge 1919-1922
Buried St Giles cemetery, Cambridge 1922
RelationshipsEldest of two sons Charles Hay (29th August 1865- 8th November 1939) and sisters Ethel Marian (30th October 1867- 4th February 1943) and Katharine Elizabeth (1871-1939) of Henry Frederick Rivers (1830-1911) curate and his wife Elizabeth Hunt.
Rivers was unmarried [Caelebs].
At the National Hospital for the Paralysed and Epileptic; Rivers worked with John Hughlings Jackson (1835-1911), Michael Foster (1836-1907), Charles S. Sherrington (1857-1952) and Victor Horsley (1852-1916), and there met Henry Head (1861-1940), who had just returned from his studies with Ewald Hering (1834-1918) in Prague.
Rivers recruited two students for the Torres Strait Expedition; William McDougall (1871-1938) and C.S.Myers (1873-1946).
He counted amongst his friends Arnold Bennett (1867-1931) playwright, Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) poet, Robert Graves (1895-1985) poet and novelist
ActivityFounder member British Psychological Society 1901.

Educated at Tonbridge School 1877-1880.

In 1882 Rivers went to St Bartholomew's Hospital, London. In 1886 he graduated MB of the University of London the youngest medical graduate in the history of the hospital. He went as ship's surgeon to Japan and America in 1887, and returned to be Medical Officer at Chichester Hospital, 1888. In 1889 he went to Bart's under Dr Gee as House Physician.

In March 1890 he joined the Neurological Society and became house physician at the National Hospital for the Paralysed and Epileptic. Rivers resigned from the National Hospital in 1891 and spent the summer in Jena attending lectures by Eucken (1846-1926), Ziehen (1862-1950) and Binswanger (1881-1966). On his return he was appointed clinical assistant at Bethlem Royal Hospital and to lecture in experimental psychology at University College London at the invitation, in 1893, of Professor James Sully (1842-1923). In 1893 he was invited to Cambridge by Professor Michael Foster (1836-1907) to lecture on physiology and spent that summer working in Heidelberg with Emil Krapelin (1856-1926). In 1897 he was appointed University Lecturer in the Physiology of the Senses and Experimental Psychology and made Director of the university's new psychology laboratory, the first of its kind in Great Britain. In 1907 this lectureship was suppressed and replaced by two separate lectureships; one in the physiology of the senses, occupied by Rivers until 1916; the other in Experimental Psychology which C.S.Myers (1873-1946) held from 1901-1921.

In 1898 he was a member of the Torres Strait Expedition, being the first to be invited by A.C.Haddon (1855-1940). His work at UCL was carried on by E.T.Dixon (1862-1935). Rivers collected social data and was in charge of experimental psychology, especially investigating vision. In 1902 he spent several months among the Toda people of south-west India. In 1908 he was in Melanesia, Chiefly in Western Samoa and was made a fellow of the Royal Society. In 1913 he visited the USA and prepared a report on anthropological research outside America for the Smithsonian Institution. He visited the New Hebrides during 1914 and early 1915, returning to England the spring of that year.
In July 1915 he was appointed to the Red Cross Military Hospital at Maghull, Lancashire. In 1916 Rivers was commissioned as a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps and in October he was posted to Craiglockhart Hospital for Officers, near Edinburgh. In 1917 Rivers became psychologist at the Royal Flying Corps Central Hospital at Hampstead.
Rivers returned in 1919 to Cambridge to his fellowship at St John's and as praelector in Natural Science.
In 1922 just before his death he accepted the invitation to become Labour candidate to represent the University of London in the House of Commons.
In 1915 Rivers was awarded the Royal Society's gold medal
Rivers was President of the Anthropological Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1911), the Folklore Society ( 1921) and of the Royal Anthropological Institute in 1921-1922
The Universities of Manchester, St Andrews, and Cambridge awarded him honorary degrees in 1919.

Sources: Pamphlet entitled "The British Psychological Society 1901-1961" supplement to the Bulletin of the British Psychological Society by Kenna, J.C. (1913-2004) Hon.Archivist BPS (BPS London) 1961
Michael Bevan and Jeremy Macclancy, "Rivers, William Halse Rivers (1864-1922)" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [accessed 10 Dec 2004:].

Compiled by Mike Maskill, BPS Archivist for the History of Psychology Centre.
OtherInfoRivers was interested in the relationship between mind and body. His most famous experiment was conducted between 1903-1907 in collaboration with Henry Head. Head severed two of the cutaneous nerves in his left forearm and sutured the ends together. He and Rivers then spent four years mapping the recovery of sensory perception in Head's arm. Later work on alcohol and caffeine on fatigue was also one of the first experiments to rely on a double-blind procedure. In an article by Rivers on the Todas the standard deviation was first used.
PublishedWorksRivers wrote the chapter on vision in "A Textbook of Physiology" by E.A.Schafer Vol.2, 1026-1148.
Monograph "The Todas", 1906
Rivers with Head and Sherrin published the first account of their experimental nerve severing: Brain, 28.99-115, 1905.
2-Vol "History of Melanesian Society" 1914
"Kinship and Social Organization", 1915
Wrote the entry on psycho-therapeutics in Volume 10 of the "Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics", 1918
Rivers assisted James Ward to found and edit the British Journal of Psychology 1904-1910
A full list of Rivers' writings is published in Man, 22, 1922.
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SourceSources: Pamphlet entitled "The British Psychological Society 1901-1961" supplement to the Bulletin of the British Psychological Society by Kenna, J.C. (1913-2004) Hon.Archivist BPS (BPS London) 1961
Michael Bevan and Jeremy Macclancy, "Rivers, William Halse Rivers (1864-1922)" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [accessed 10 Dec 2004:]
ConventionsInternational Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families - ISAAR(CPF) - Ottawa 1996 ISBN ISBN 0-9696035-3-3
National Council on Archives, Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997

Show related catalogue records.

PHO/001/03/07Rivers, William Halse Rivers - Photographearly 20th century
PHO/001/04/08/29Torres Straits Expedition 1898 - Photograph1898
KENNA/2/4/4Notes, Drafts and Research Material (Individuals and Societies)1960s-1970s
KENNA/1/4/8W H R Rivers - Biographical Material1950s-1960s
AUD/001/46/05Rusk, Robert R (1879-1972) - Interview Transcript29/08/1968
AUD/001/46/06Seligman, Brenda Zara (1883-1965) - Interview Transcript1 March 1957
AUD/001/09Pear, Thomas H. - Recording1957-1978
BPSBritish Psychological Society records1891-2003
PHO/001/02/441Rivers, William Halse Rivers - Photographearly 20th century
Stev/001David Stevens (1947-2009) papers2003-2006
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