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Wendell Johnson Audio Lectures
and Other Audio Material

NOTE: This is currently a work in progress. If and when additional tapes/files are found, created and uploaded they will be linked from here. As files are reviewed more carefully brief summaries of the contents of each will be provided. In some instances, where lectures from different years cover similar material, the better quality file may be the only one provided rather than linking to them all. See below for background and history of project, quality of recordings, and copyright information. -- Nicholas Johnson and Gregory Johnson, Iowa City, June 2004.


Wendell Johnson's General Semantics Lectures

    1956 (WSUI)

    1962-63 UI General Semantics Lectures

    1963-64 UI General Semantics Lectures

Wendell Johnson Other Audio Material

Background and History of Project

Quality of Recordings

Copyright Information

Wendell Johnson's General Semantics Lectures

1956 (WSUI) [see below]

December 7, 1956

December 10, 1956 (missing about first 10 minutes)

WSUI Broadcast, Levels of Abstraction I (1956, date unknown; possibly duplication of December 7 or 10, above) [Real Player file created earlier]

WSUI Broadcast, Levels of Abstraction II (continuation; 1956, date unknown) [Real Player file created earlier]

1962-63 UI General Semantics Lectures

October 8, 1962

October 10, 1962

October 12, 1962

October 15, 1962

October 17, 1962

October 19, 1962

November 2, 1962

November 5, 1962

November 9, 1962

November 12, 1962

November 26, 1962

November 30, 1962

December 10, 1962

December 12, 1962

December 14, 1962

January 4, 1963

January 14, 1963

January 21, 1963

1963-64 UI General Semantics Lectures

September 20, 1963 (Introductory; administrative details)

September 20, 1963 (Introductory; overview of general semantics; chemical, space and time-binding)

September 23, 1963

September 25, 1963

September 27, 1963

September 30, 1963

October 2, 1963

October 7, 1963

October 9, 1963

October 12, 1963

November 1a, 1963

November 1b, 1963

November 13, 1963

December 2, 1963

December 4, 1963

December 13, 1963

December 16, 1963

December 18, 1963

January 20a, 1964

January 20b, 1964

Wendell Johnson Other Audio Material

ASHA 1950 (entire meeting) [American Speech and Hearing Association 25th Anniversary; tape created to be played in 1975; early pioneers]

ASHA 1950 (Wendell Johnson remarks at event, above)

"The Language of Responsibility," UI Commencement Address, August 9, 1961

"Plogglies" [this link goes to a page that contains both a textual explanation about Plogglies and a link to the audio file in .wav format]

"Gray Hairs" [In addition to his prolific research, writing, teaching, counseling, government consulting, and public lecturing, Johnson enjoyed writing limericks and composing songs, perhaps in part because of his friendship and collaboration with Artie Shaw in the writing of Shaw's autobiography, The Trouble with Cinderella. Whatever Johnson's musical motive may have been, most music critics agree it's just as well he did not choose to abandon his professorship for a musical career. "Gray Hairs" is illustrative of his compositions -- and is sung, acapella, by the composer. This is a Real Player file.] - Note that this file is no longer available as of Aug 2023.

Background and History of Project, Quality of Recordings, and Copyright Information

Background and History of Project

Wendell Johnson (1906-1965), a University of Iowa professor best known internationally for his pioneering work in speech pathology, was also one of the early students and adopters of "general semantics" and one of the four organizers of the International Society for General Semantics. His seminal book, People in Quandaries, first published in 1946, has remained in print for over a half-century. Toward the end of his life (1950s and early 1960s) he taught a general semantics course at Iowa which was, at that time, one of the most popular courses on campus, a class selected for broadcast over the University's radio station WSUI-AM.

For a variety of reasons related to his research in both fields, Johnson made extensive use of audio tape recorders. Thus, although only a couple of the reel-to-reel tapes from the WSUI broadcasts have been found, there is a relatively more complete collection of tapes from the class lectures from 1962 and 1963.

Because audio tapes deteriorate over time, during the spring and summer of 2004 Johnson's son, Nicholas, and grandson, Gregory, undertook the task of transferring the tapes into digital (ultimately mp3) format for preservation and ease of availability over the Internet.

It is unknown why there are only 18-19 taped sessions from each semester. Based on the dates, it appears to have been a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule which, over 14-15 weeks, would have produced twice that number. Some of the 50-minute class hours involved presentations by others (possibly because of Johnson's travel or other commitments); they are not provided here. It may have been a less than three-credit-hour course. There may have been class hours devoted to quizzes, exams, "lab" or other exercises of some kind. Some tapes may have been lost or erased. The dates indicated, believed to be correct, were sometimes obtained from the labeled reel containers and sometimes confirmed by a recitation of the date contained at the beginning of the tape. For November 1, 1963 and January 20, 1964, there are two tapes for each date with a claim to the date in question; they are indicated, for each date, as "a" and "b."

Quality of Recordings

The listener should be aware that these recordings were not made originally with equipment of today's quality. The tapes have had roughly a half-century to deteriorate. Moreover, they were not even made with the highest possible professional practices of their time. There is occasional over-modulation, apparent wandering away from the microphone that causes a decline in volume, hisses and other distracting noises. The recordings were not done under studio conditions; street noise comes in through the open windows of an Iowa fall, there is the student coughing brought on by an Iowa winter, and the student chatter and moving of chairs at the start and finish of every class. The tapes were played from a 30-year-old reel-to-reel tape player onto the computer. Finally, no effort was made to utilize all of the expensive, professional equipment and time-consuming techniques for cleaning up such recordings.

Having said all that, so as to lower expectations to reasonable levels, these now-digital recordings are quite easy to listen to and the content easy to follow.

The audio files have been formatted in mp3, with the exception of a couple of files created before this project was undertaken that require Real Player.

Copyright Information

These recordings are copyright by the Estate of Wendell Johnson. They are made available on the Internet for your personal listening only. You are not authorized to make copies of them for any purpose, whether commercial or educational. You may link to this page, but not to the individual files. (This is, in part, because the location of the files may change over time. Links from this page to those files will be kept accurate.) If you wish to explore any other arrangements, contact Nicholas Johnson through the contacts provided from his Web site,