Edwin Burket Twitmyer


Edwin TwitmyerEdwin Burket Twitmyer was born in McElhattan, Pennsylvania on September 14, l873. He received his bachelor's degree from Lafayette College in 1896. In the following year he became instructor in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and continued his studies there receiving a doctoral degree in 1902 and in 1914 he was appointed professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Twitmyer's wife, Mary Marvin Twitmyer, was a teacher or the deaf, and speech clinician who worked in Lightner Witmer's psychology clinic. It was from her that Twitmyer developed a life-long interest in the treatment of speech defects. In 1914 Edwin Burket Twitmyer began a satellite speech clinic associated with Lightner Witmer's Psychological Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania. Here is what Paul McReynolds says about Twitmyer's clinic in his biography of Lightner Witmer (McReynolds, 1997, p 178):

The year 1914 brought forth a new and important development in the structure of the Psychological Clinic. This was the establishment, by Twitmyer, of a satellite clinic-to be known as the Corrective Speech Clinic-for the diagnosis and treatment of speech defects. So far as can be determined, this was the first clinic of its type in the nation, although of course there had been earlier workers in the area, including Twitmyer's wife, Mary Marvin, who had been one of Witmer's earliest collaborators and whose special expertise was in teaching deaf persons to speak. Although functionally independent, the Corrective Speech Clinic, which was open for new cases twice weekly, was an integral part of the overall Psychological Clinic, and cases were numbered in the same sequence as other Clinic cases. Twitmyer's general approach, in working with persons with speech disorders, was based on the view that habitual disturbances in breathing constituted a major etiological factor. Treatment methods were thus designed to establish improved habits of breathing.

The Speech Clinic soon became a flourishing part of the larger Clinic and Twitmyer, in the years ahead, would become known as a leading pioneer and authority in the treatment of speech disorders.

In his dissertation Twitmyer did a conditioning study. He tested the knee-jerk reflex of college students by sounding a bell 0.5 seconds before hitting their patellar tendon, Twitmyer found that after several trials, the bell was sufficient to elicit the reflex in some of the students (Twitmyer, 1974). Twitmyer's discovery was in 1902, three years before Pavlov published his work on conditioning of dogs. But it was Pavlov who got the credit for the discovery.

Twitmeyer died in Philadelphia, after a brief illness, on March 3, l943, at the age of 69.

Writings by Edwin Burket Twitmyer

Twitmyer, E. B. (1902). A study of the knee jerk. Philadelphia, PA: Winston.

Twitmeyer, E. B. (1905). Knee-jerks without stimulation of the patellar tendon. Psychological Bulletin, 2, 43-44.

Twitmyer, E. B. (1928). Defective speech: Diagnosis and treatment. In Pennsylvania University Fifteenth Annual Schoolmen's Work Proceedings, 516-523.

Twitmyer, E. B. (1930). Stammering in relation to hemo-respiratory factors. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 16, 278-283.

Twitmyer, E. B., & Nathanson, Y. S. (1932). Correction of defective speech: A complete manual of psycho-physical technique for the treatment and correction of defects of speech. Philadelphia, PA: P. Blakiston's Son and Co.

Twitmyer, E. B., & Nathanson, Y. S. (1933). Determination of laterality. Psychological Clinic, 22, 141-148.

References about Twitmyer

Coon, D. (1982). Eponymy, obscurity, Twitmyer and Pavlov. Journal of the History of Behavioral Sciences, 18, 255-262.

Dallenbach, K. (1959). Twitmyer and the conditioned response. American Journal of Psychology, 72, 628-633.

Irwin, F. (1943). Edwin Burket Twitmyer: 1873-1943. American Journal of Psychology, 56, 451-453.

McReynolds, P. (1997). Lightner Witmer: His Life and Times. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Nathanson, Yale, S. (1930). An analysis of sounds and frequency words basic to a new method of corrective speech (a presentation of orthenic material developed from the postulates of Twitmyer). Philadelphia.