Craik, Kenneth James William 1914 - 1945

Scottish; British

(1914-1945), psychologist

Kenneth James William Craik was born on 29 March 1914. He was educated at Edinburgh Academy, before studying philosophy and psychology at Edinburgh University. After graduating, Craik joined the Psychological Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, conducting research on visual adaptation, the subject for which he would later receive his Ph.D. in 1940.

During the Second World War (1939-1945), Craik was barred from serving in the military for health reasons and instead conducted a number of investigations in Cambridge, most notably relating to the problem of the ‘human factor’ in the design and operation of military control panels and cockpits. Craik’s success led him to be recommended for the directorship of the new Applied Psychology Unit by the Psychological Laboratory’s director (and Craik’s Ph.D. supervisor), Sir Frederic Bartlett (1886-1969). During this time, Craik also wrote The Nature of Explanation (1943), a work which combined philosophical, psychological, and cybernetic approaches to understanding the human brain, and introduced the concept of ‘mental models’.

Craik died in a road accident on 7 May 1945.