Charles W. Telford, Ph.D.

Image: Jim Asher



    • Ph.D., Psychology, Vanderbilt University, United States, c. 1929

    • M.S., Psychology, University of Idaho, United States, 1927 (Thesis: "The Relative Value of a Psychological Examination and an Entrance Test in Predicting School Grades")

    • Bachelor of Arts, Psychology, unknown

Biographical Information

 Dr. Telford was a faculty member of the Psychology Department from 1948 to his retirement in 1972.  He was also the Department Head of Psychology from 1951 - 1955. 

Dr. Telford was the joint author of several books on psychology, beginning with Dynamics of Mental Health (1963), which by the third edition was called Psychology of Adjustment (1971), and with the fourth edition (1975) it became Adjustment and Personality. James M. Sawrey is the senior author and C. W. Telford is joint author.

Telford and Sawrey also co-authored a text Educational Psychology: Psychological Foundations of Education 3rd ed., (1968) and The exceptional Individual: Psychological and Educational Aspects (1967) [4th ed., 1981]. Telford, Sawrey and Arthur T. Jersild co-authored another text: Child Psychology, 7th ed. (1975).

Telford (1931) is also credited with the discovery of the phenomenon he named the psychological refractory period (PRP).


From he Spartan Daily, October 1992

Retired Psychology Professor Dies
By Kerry Peters, Spartan Daily Staff Writer

SJSU psychology Professor Robert Fox has fond memories of a man he affectionately calls "Tel."

"Tel was a gentleman's gentleman," Fox said. A clock that Tel made for him hangs in his breakfast nook. Fox said he will remember Tel every morning when he looks at the clock.

Charles W. Telford, a retired SJSU professor of psychology, died Oct. 13 of a heart attack. He was 89. Telford, or Tel to his friends, earned his Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University and began his teaching career in 1929 at the University of North Dakota. He also taught at the University of Utah before coming to San Jose State in 1948.

"Tel was very student-oriented." said psychology Professor Karl Mueller. "Students had a very high opinion of him." Mueller said he recently talked to a former student of Telford who thought his class was one of the best she had ever taken.

In 1951, Telford became head of the psychology department and chairman of the division of psychology, philosophy and statistics. Four years later, Telford decided to resign from those positions so he could devote more of his time to teaching.  

Aside from teaching, Telford wrote numerous books dealing with various areas of psychology, including educational, general, adjustment and child psychology. After his retirement in 1972, Telford continued to conduct research and write books. Mueller said that, including rewrites, he believes Telford wrote about 43 books in all.

But Telford was not just involved in psychology but many extracurricular activities as well. His grandson, Jake Olsen, an SJSU student, said Telford build two houses, one in San Jose, in which his wife Aldene still lives, and a cabin. For most of his life, he practiced woodworking and built 10 grandfather clocks and several smaller ones. Telford was also an avid gardener who grew oranges, lemons, prunes, plums and berries which he often gave away by the bagful to his friends and neighbors.

Those who worked with Telford held him in high regard, not just as a teacher, but as a friend. "He was very generous with his time," Mueller said. "He was very altruistic." Mueller said he remembered once when he was ill and trying to find a professor to teach his classes for him, Telford immediately volunteered. Fox said when he first started in the department he and Telford would get together for lunch and talk about the history of the department. "He was an invaluable source of information," Fox said.

The psychology department and Foundation have set up a trust fund in Telford's memory that will be administered to various areas in the department.


Selected Publications:

Ecker, P., Macrae, J., Oullette, V., & Telford, C. (1959). Handbook for Supervisors. Prentice-Hall: Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

Jersild, A. T., Telford, C. W., & Sawrey, J. M. (1975). Child Psychology. (7th edition). Prentice-Hall: New Jersey.

Sawrey, J. M. & Telford, C. W. (1959) Educational Psychology. Allyn & Bacon, 3rd imp [1958]

Sawrey, J. M. & Telford, C. W. (1971). Psychology of adjustment. 3rd Ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Sawrey, J.M. & Telford, C. W. (1975). Adjustment and Personality. (4th edition). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon I nc.

Telford, C. W. (1931). The refractory phase# of voluntary and associative responses. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 14, 1-36.
Telford, C.W. (1938). Comparative studies of full and mixed-blood North Dakota India ns. Psychological Monographs 50: 116-129.

Telford, C.W. & Sawrey, J.M. (1967). The Exceptional Individual: Psychological and Educational Aspects. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hill, Inc.

Telford, C.W. & Sawrey, J.M. (1971). The Exceptional Individual. (Rev. Ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hill, Inc.

Telford, C.W. & Sawrey, J.M. (1972a). Psychology as a natural science. Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Telford, C.W. & Sawrey, J.M. (1972b). The Exceptio nal Individual. (2nd edition). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hill, Inc.

Telford, C.W. & Sawrey, J.M. (1972c). The Exceptional Individual. (3rd Edition). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hill, Inc. [xii]+562+[2]pp. Cloth. A very good copy. $17.50.

Telford, C. W, y Sawrey, J. M. (1973). El individuo excepcional. Madrid: Prentice-Hall.

Telford, C. W. y Sawrey, J. M. (1978). O Individuo Excepcional. Rio de Janeiro (3a.Edicao), Zahar (Ed.).

Telford, C. W. and Spangler, H. (1935). Training effects in motor skills. Journal of experimental psychology. 19 (1), 141-147.