1. Father of American psychology. James is acknowledged as the father of American psychology: he wrote the first text book on psychology; he was the first professor of psychology in American universities (began teaching psychology in 1875), thus he wrote: “The first lecture in psychology that I ever heard was the first I ever gave'"; he• founded first psychology laboratories in the USA (in 1875.); but this lab was ill equipped and used for teaching demonstrations, that is why Traditionally it is believed thatt the first experimental psychology lab was founded in 1879 by Wilhelm Wundt and in 1883 by G. Stanley Hall in the USA, and again by W. James in 1891).
2. Functionalism. As an ardent evolutionist and strong proponent of the functionalism he stated that the mind, with all its functions, should be regarded as the organ of primary adaptation to the environment and stressed the importance of looking at process and functions rather than content and structure of consciousness. He considered habit as the“ bottom a physical principle”.
3. Methods of psychology: he used introspection, study of mind’s creations and products, study of anatomy and physiology.
4. Consciousness. He proposed that mental life is a unity that flows and changes. He construes consciousness as essentially adaptive, active, selective, interested, teleological. He introduced the term a "stream of consciousness", which had a significant impact on modernist literature and art.
5. Will. James argued that will is thus primary and knowledge is instrumental, that will does implement beliefs and the mind free to choose between any number of options.
6. Emotion. James in 1884 and Lange in 1885, independently proposed the James-Lange theory of emotion, which holds that emotions are primarily influenced by our physiological expressions and so we feel sorry because we cry or we see a bear and then we run, and that is why we are afraid.
7. Еducational psychology. His series of lectures to Cambridge professors Talks to Teachers on Psychology (1899) is regarded as the first educational psychology textbook.
8. Psychology of religious experience.
In his book The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) he stressed the importance of many "altered states of consciousness", stated the a wider and deeper range of sensitivity may lead to states of ecstasy and self-renewal or Faith healing. He also interested in mysticism, spiritualism, telepathy, clairvoyance.
9. Theory of Genius. In his lectures ‘Great Men and Their Environment’, he stated that что гении надо воспринимать как «спонтанные мутации» по аналогии с теорией Дарвина. He introduced the term “receptivities of the moment” and said that “Genius is nothing but a power of sustained attention”.
10. His philosophy has three aspects—voluntarism, which asserted the ideas of free will and ‘soft determinism’; pragmatism, which became a major American way of thinking and "radical empiricism."
James stated that we can never prove the truth of an idea, instead we should be looking to how useful an idea is, what he called the "cash value," or usefulness, of an idea.
He earned at Harvard his M.D. degree in 1869, but never practiced medicine. In 1872 James was appointed instructor in physiology at Harvard College,
James spent his entire academic career at Harvard University (1873- 1907) (as instructor in anatomy and physiology and professor of psychology and philosophy).
Students: luminaries - Boris Sidis, Theodore Roosevelt, George Santayana, Gertrude Stein and psychologists - Mary Whiton Calkins, Edward Thorndike, G. Stanley Hall and John Dewey.
He did meet Sigmund Freud when he came to visit Boston in 1909.
He was twice elected president of the American Psychological Association, once in 1894 and again in 1904.
In 1855 his family moves to Europe. In 1859 –1860 his family settles in Geneva, where William studies science at Geneva Academy. In 1861 William returned to USA and entered Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard.
James suffered from a variety of physical ailments, including those of the eyes, back, stomach, skin and tone deaf. He was subject to a variety of psychological symptoms (as he he called it "soul-sickness"), which were diagnosed as neurasthenia, and which included periods of depression.
He interested in art (at age 18, he decided to become a painter), in literature, in philosophy, and in science.
In 1878, at age 36, he married Alice Gibbens Howe a Boston school teacher, they had five children. After his marriage the old neurasthenia practically disappeared.