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Muscio, Bernard (1887–1926)

by W. M. O'Neil

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Bernard Muscio (1887-1926), philosopher and pioneer industrial psychologist, was born on 7 April 1887 at Purfleet, Manning River district, New South Wales, son of Bernard Muscio, Swiss farmer, and his native-born second wife Eliza Anne, née Isaacs, formerly White. He suffered from organic heart disease and was educated privately by L. F. Meagher. Entering the University of Sydney in 1907, he won the Lithgow scholarship for philosophy in 1909 and graduated B.A. in 1910 and M.A. in 1912, both times with first-class honours and the University medal in logic and mental philosophy; his thesis was 'Pragmatism—the present position of psychological theory'.

Awarded the Woolley travelling scholarship he studied philosophy with James Ward and others and psychology with C. S. Myers, while at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, (B.A., 1913; M.A., 1919). In 1913 he won the Burney prize for his essay, 'Determinism and freewill' and next year a Burney studentship; he wrote a thesis on 'Idealism and the neo-realism'. Rejected for military service, he was demonstrator in experimental psychology (1914-16). On 31 March 1915 at West Derby, near Liverpool, he married Florence Mildred Fry. In 1913-16 he published three papers in leading philosophical journals and a long experimental report in the British Journal of Psychology.

Back in Sydney in 1916 Muscio was acting lecturer in logic and mental philosophy at the university for three years. His series of public lectures on industrial psychology embodying recent empirical work in the United States of America, Britain and Europe, and dealing with such topics as fatigue, vocational selection and methods of work, were published in Sydney in 1917 and reprinted in London in 1919. This publication was the earliest British statement of the aims, scope and value of industrial psychology.

Muscio returned to Cambridge in 1919 to become organizing secretary and lecturer for the Industrial Fatigue Research Board. He wrote some nine reports for the board based on surveys of current thought, experimental investigations and studies in factories, which were published as monographs or as journal articles. Two of these were of considerable significance, one dealing critically with current conceptions of fatigue and the other with an experimental demonstration that motor ability was not a unitary trait.

In 1922 Muscio was appointed to the Challis chair of philosophy at the University of Sydney, after strong support from Ward who praised his philosophical talents but regarded his activities in experimental and industrial psychology as an unfortunate diversion from his main field. In the event Muscio made a greater mark in industrial psychology than in philosophy. He wrote some papers but they were comments on philosophy rather than analyses of particular problems and concepts; he had not worked out his basic position but he seems to have been shaking off the remnants of earlier idealism. He was a founder and first president of the Australasian Association of Psychology and Philosophy.

Muscio was still adjusting to his professorial tasks when he died, childless, of heart disease at his Potts Point home on 27 May 1926; he was cremated. His wife survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Australasian Journal of Psychology and Philosophy, 4, no 3, 1926, p 157
  • Australian Journal of Psychology, 23, no 3, 1971, p 235
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 28, 29 May 1926.

Citation details

W. M. O'Neil, 'Muscio, Bernard (1887–1926)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/muscio-bernard-7714/text13511, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 23 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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