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The British Psychological Society: 110 years of advancing our science


Reaching our 110th anniversary in 2011 is a milestone in the Society’s history. It would have been difficult for the founders of the British Psychological Society back in 1901 to imagine such growth of the Society and the influence that psychology now has in all areas of life. 

Whilst celebrating psychology’s achievements we also look to future developments for the discipline and the Society. We continue to support and promote psychology through our many Member Networks. The academic base of psychology has flourished with the boom in the popularity of the subject. The professional practice of psychology continues to be enhanced through the scrutiny applied to training and qualifications by our members contributing their time to our Boards and committees, and through the greater understanding and acceptance of psychology by the public. 

The continued prosperity of psychology depends upon our collective efforts to demonstrate the excellence and relevance of our research, our professionalism, the variety and breadth of our practice and our ability to work with other disciplines and professions.


Some key dates

1901: The Psychological Society is founded in October (‘British’ added in 1906).

1914: The Society acquires the British Journal of Psychology, which was first published in 1904.

1919: Dr C.S. Myers is elected as the Society’s first President.

1948: The Quarterly Bulletin of the British Psychological Society is launched, the forerunner of The Psychologist.

1955: The Council sets up a working party to collect evidence for the Royal Commission on the Law Relating to Mental Illness and Mental Deficiency.

1961: The Society’s legal advisers prepare the Petition for Royal Charter, the Draft Royal Charter and accompanying Statutes.

1965: In May, the Society’s Petition for Incorporation by Royal Charter is approved by Her Majesty the Queen in Council. The Society is now governed by its Charter, Statutes and Rules.

1965: The inaugural Spearman Medal was awarded to Anne Treisman.

1972: A level psychology was introduced and just 275 sat the exam.

1976: The Society’s main administrative office moves to Leicester.

1981: The membership votes and gives overwhelming support to the notion that the Society accepts in principle the need to set up a legal register of psychologists in the United Kingdom. The Steering Committee on Registration is established.

1981: The Society joins the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations.

1981: The Presidents’ Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychological Knowledge is established.

1985: The Society’s first Code of Conduct is published.

1987: On 18 December at Buckingham Palace, the Queen grants amendments to the Charter, thereby allowing the Society to maintain a Register of Chartered Psychologists. Amendments to the Statutes at Council Chamber, Whitehall, follow and also allow the provision for ‘Special Groups’.

1988: The Psychologist is first published.

1996: The Award for Excellence in Psychological Education is established.

1997: The Award to Outstanding Doctoral Research Contributions to Psychological Knowledge launches.

2000: The Award for Distinguished Contributions to Professional Psychology is established.

2001: The Society’s celebrates its centenary .

2001: The Psychological Testing Centre (PTC) is launched.

The Society’s History of Psychology Centre, based in the then London Office in John Street is created.

2002: The first Expert Witness Directory  is published.

2003: The Research Digest fortnightly email service is established. In 2005 this developed into the award-winning Research Digest Blog.

2006: The Professional Practice Board Lifetime Achievement Award is established.

2006: The Society is granted a licence by the Science Council to award the title of Chartered Scientist (CSci).

2009: The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) becomes the statutory regulator for practitioner psychologists from 1 July 2009. The Society ceases to perform a regulatory function for psychologists.

2009: The inaugural Research Board Lifetime Achievement Award is given to Professors Annette Karmiloff-Smith and Uta Frith.

2010: The Society has a presence on Twitter for the first time.

2010: The first Prize for Public Engagement is awarded to Professor Tommy Mackay.

The Professional Practice Board Practitioner of the Year Award is established.

2011: The Society’s first Code of Human Ethics is published.

2011: The Society’s new website is launched, offering new networking  opportunities for our members in the fast-moving world of e-communications.