It’s Sir Percy’s birthday!

Today we celebrate the anniversary of Sir T. Percy Nunn’s birthday for he was born on 28th December 1870 – the year in which the 1870 Education Act which promised a national education system was passed. Thomas Percy Nunn was a vice-principal at the London Day Training College (LDTC) (together with Margaret Punnett who was the other vice-principal). Nunn was at the LDTC (which became the Institute of Education, IOE, in 1932) from 1904 until his retirement in 1936. He became the first director in 1932 when the IOE moved away from being a teacher training college managed by the London County Council to being part of the University of London.

Nunn, T. Percy. Education, Its Data and First Principles. London: Edward Arnold, 1920
Nunn, T. Percy. 教育 原理 [Jiao Yu Yuan Li or Education Principles]. Translated by Cheng Xu Wang and Duan Ying Zhao. 3rd ed., revised and in part rewritten. Beijing: Renmin Jiaoyu Chubanshe, 1992.

It is impossible to write about Nunn’s contributions to education in a short blog post for there were many. One can safely say he, together with John Adams, the first principal, ensured that educational psychology was embedded firmly into teacher training. Nunn came to be regarded as ‘one of its most powerful minds and British educational psychology’s most original and stimulating exponents’(Hamley 1945:1). According to Professor J. W. Tibble, Nunn was a pioneer of ‘new methods’ which focused on the individuality of the child – or child-centred education – which he continued to advocate throughout his lifetime (1961:58). Together with Adams, he embraced psychology for practical purposes, hoping, ‘it would provide guidelines for successful teaching and insights into the mental processes of their pupils’ (Wooldridge 1994:63). You can read more about Percy Nunn, in the UCL Press open access book, The UL Institute of Education: From Training College to Global Institution by Richard Aldrich and Tom Woodin. This post simply flags one of Nunn’s most influential books. It established his authority as an educationalist (and an educational psychologist) and influenced generations of educators as it became a core text in many teacher training colleges.

Education: Its Data and First Principles was published in 1920 as part of ‘The Modern Educator’s Library’ series. It became one of the most popular books on education and was highly influential in Britain up to the 1960s. It represented a move away from the theological basis that had dominated education and teacher training to one that was based on the emerging field of educational psychology. The first edition was reprinted thirteen times between 1920 and 1930 and translated into Hebrew in 1923 – most probably by one of Nunn’s students. In 1930, Nunn published a revised second edition of the book which also resulted in many more impressions; and a final, third revised and part rewritten edition, was published posthumously in 1945. This third edition was also reprinted several times up to 1962, and translated into Arabic in 1946, German in 1949, Italian in 1953 (reprinted in 1968) and in Chinese in 1964. More recently, educationalists appear to have resurrected the book for there have been further reprints (in 1992, 2005, 2012 and 2013). This attests to its continuing popularity and perhaps its ongoing influence.

The IOE Library’s Special Collections has several editions of Nunn’s book. A study of the differences between these editions would highlight how Nunn’s educational philosophy changed over a quarter of a century and also provide a sense of how the social and political changes during the period between the two wars influenced his thinking.

About Nazlin Bhimani

Research Support and Special Collections Librarian, UCL Institute of Education, London
This entry was posted in Library and Archives, Special Collections and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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