Franciscan philosopher and psychologist; b. Milan, Jan. 18, 1878; d. July 15, 1959. He was a founder of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, and its rector; professor of psychology, and director of a psychological research center; president of the Papal Academy of Sciences; and a promoter of neoscholasticism in Italy. Gemelli first studied medicine and received a doctorate in medicine and surgery at the University of Pavia in 1902. As a young man he lost his faith and thought that science alone could solve all "the riddles of the universe." Eventually disillusioned with philosophy, which he studied for a while, he returned to Catholicism, entered the Franciscan Order, and was ordained in 1908. He continued to study biology, physiology, and philosophy at various universities in Europe. In 1911 he completed his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Louvain, but his dominant interest soon became psychology.
Gemelli's extensive research and publications and his active participation in psychological congresses made him one of the most prominent psychologists in Europe. The scope of his studies and writings included areas such as perception, feeling and emotion, developmental psychology, clinical psychology, psychoanalysis, and electrolinguistics. One of his recurring themes was the nature of psychology and its relation to philosophy and biology. Much of his research was devoted also to practical problems, such as vocational selection and guidance, accident prevention, delinquency, education, and working conditions in industry. During World Wars I and II he rendered valuable services to the Italian armed forces, especially in regard to the selection and training of pilots. Through these activities Gemelli contributed considerably to a better understanding and appreciation of psychology among Catholics and attracted Catholics to the study of psychology.
Gemelli also published works in theology, philosophy, and ethics. Deeply interested in current religious, moral, and scientific issues, he discussed such issues in his writings and ably presented the Catholic point of view. He thereby exerted a profound influence on the intellectual life of Catholic Italy.
Bibliography: Autobiography in A History of Psychology in Autobiography, v.4 (Worcester, Mass. 1952). h. misiak and v. m. staudt, Catholics in Psychology (New York 1954). d. morando, Enciclopedia filosofica 2:603. p. bondioli, Il P. Agostino Gemelli (Milan 1926). Vita e Pensiero 42 (1959) 505–716, entire issue about Gemelli with his bibliog. a. manoil, La Psychologie expérimentale en Italie: École de Milan (Paris 1938).