B. F. Skinner was born on March 20, 1904 in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania to Grace and William Skinner. His father was a promising young lawyer and his mother was a housewife. With only one other sibling, a brother two and a half years his younger, he later described his childhood as “warm and stable”. Later, when his younger brother reached the age of 16, he suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage and died.
Much of his boyhood was spent building things that were quite peculiar for a child of his age. For example he built a cart that’s steering worked backwards, this he did by mistake, and a perpetual motion machine, this later did not work. He and his friends built a cabin in the woods and for a door to door business selling elderberries; he built a device to separate the green from the ripened berries.
In high school, Skinner took an English class taught by Miss Graves to whom he was later to dedicate his book, “The Technology of Teaching”. Based on a remark by his father, he blurted out in class one day that Shakespeare had not written “As You Like It”, but rather Frances Bacon. When his teacher told him he didn't know what he was talking about, he went to the library and read quite a bit of Bacon's works. Bacon's championing of the inductive method in science against the call of authority was to serve him well later.
Skinner attended Hamilton College in New York with the intention of being a writer. While attending, he wrote for the school newspaper. Though being an atheist, he was critical of the religious school he was attending.
After receiving his bachelors in English literature in 1926, Skinner stayed with his parents for a year attempting to become a fiction writer. Skinner soon concluded that he had no literary skills and that he had little world experience and no strong personal perspective from which to write. He later referred to this year as his dark year. During this year, Skinner happened upon a book discussing Watson...