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Josephine Ball



Training Location(s):

PhD, University of California, (1929)

Primary Affiliation(s):

Phipps Psychiatric Clinic, Johns Hopkins University Hospital, (1929-1942)

Veterans Administration Hospital, Perry Point, Maryland, (1959-1967)

Media Links:
Archival Collections

The Adolf Meyer Collection, Unit I/173. Medical Archives of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, MD.


The Robert Mearns Yerkes Papers. MS 569, Box 4, Folder 5. Manuscripts and Archives, Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT.




Career Focus: Psychobiology; comparative psychology; endocrinology; physiology of sex; clinical psychology; psychosurgery; gerontology.


Josephine Ball was born April 28, 1898.  She obtained a bachelor's degree from Columbia University in 1922.  She then spent several years at the University of Minnesota (1923-1926) as an assistant in psychology.  In 1924, she accompanied psychologist Robert Yerkes and his bonobo Prince Chim to Havana, Cuba on a visit to Madame Rosalia Abreu's primate collection.  Ball's first article, "The female sex cycle as a factor in learning in the rat," was published in 1926.


In 1927, Ball moved to California where she worked as a research assistant in anatomy and a teaching fellow in psychology at the University of California.  She earned her doctorial degree from the University in 1929, as well as a diplomate from the American Board of Examiners of Professional Psychologists.


Following her graduation from the University of California, Ball accepted a position in Baltimore as an assistant psychobiologist at the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic at Johns Hopkins University Hospital.  In the late 1930s, she also worked at the Carnegie Laboratory of Embryology at Johns Hopkins Medical School.  While at Johns Hopkins in the late 1920s, she collaborated with psychologist Karl Lashley on the neurophysiology of learning in rats (1929).  Throughout the 1930s and into the early 1940s she investigated the sexual behaviour of the rat, focusing particularly on the physiological and endocrinological components of such behaviour.  In 1937, Ball published one of her seminal articles, "A test for measuring sexual excitability in the female rat."


Also in the 1930s, Ball's comparative research expanded to encompass not only work with rats but also work with rhesus monkeys.  In one instance, she documented a case of imitative learning in a monkey (1938).  Other research with monkeys was more closely related to her previous research on sexual behaviour in rats.  In such research, Ball documented the successful use of progesterone to reduce sexual excitability in female monkeys (1941), as well as the relation of the menstrual cycle to sexual excitability (1935).


Following her tenure at Johns Hopkins, Ball held a number of short-term positions.  Immediately after leaving Baltimore, she worked as a research associate at Cornell University's College of Home Economics (1942-1943).  She then accepted a position as an assistant professor in the psychology department of Vassar College (1943-1945).  Next, she moved on to another assistant professorship at Connecticut's Hartford Junior College, while also holding a concurrent position as a clinical psychologist at the University of Connecticut's Institute of Living (1945-1947).  This marked the beginning of Ball's career in clinical psychology.


Ball spent the next period of her career in New York State.  In 1948, she accepted a position as a senior psychologist at the Rockland State Hospital.  This was followed by a position as a field supervisor for the New York State Psychological Intern Training Program (1950-1955), and then a position as assistant director of psychological services for the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene (1954-1955).  During her time at the Psychological Intern Training Program Ball also served as secretary of the New York State Psychological Association (1951-1952).


In 1955, Ball accepted a position as a research psychologist associated with the lobotomy research project at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Perry Point, Maryland.  In 1959, she left lobotomy research behind to work as a clinical psychologist at the same Veterans Administration Hospital.  Her work at this time turned to gerontology.  She remained in this position until her retirement in 1967.


by Jacy L. Young (2010)

To cite this article, see Credits

Selected Works:
By Josephine Ball

Ball, J. (1926). The female sex cycle as a factor in learning in the rat. American Journal of Physiology, 68, 533-536.


Ball, J. (1937). A test for measuring sexual excitability in the female rat. Comparative Psychology Monographs, 14, 37-37.


Ball, J. (1938). A case of apparent imitation in a monkey. The Pedagogical Seminary and Journal of Genetic Psychology, 52, 439-442.


Ball, J. (1948). Psychosexual behavior. In L. A. Pennington, & I. A. Berg (Eds.), An introduction to clinical psychology (pp. 200-217). New York: Ronald Press.


Ball, J., Klett, C. J., & Gresock, C. J. (1959). The Veterans Administration study of prefrontal lobotomy. Journal of Clinical & Experimental Psychopathology, 20, 209-217.


Lashley, K. S., & Ball, J. (1929). Spinal conduction and kinesthetic sensitivity in the maze habit. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 9(1), 71-105.

About Josephine Ball

Ball, Josephine (1898-?). (2000). In M. B. Ogilvie, & J. D. Harvey (Eds.), The biographical dictionary of women in science: Pioneering lives from ancient times to the mid-20th century (vol. 1, pp. 73-74). New York: Routledge.