Edwin Ray Guthrie was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska. After graduating from high school, he attended the University of Nebraska where he obtained his bachelors degree in mathematics. He remained there and received his masters degree in philosophy. Guthrie then taught mathematics at several high schools, while he worked on his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania.
After receiving his doctorate, he was hired as an instructor in the department of philosophy at the University of Washington. After five years, he moved to the psychology department where he remained for the remainder of his career. Dr. Guthrie was 33 years old when he made the transition from philosophy to psychology. He was the winner of the second gold medal awarded by the American Psychology Association for outstanding lifetime contributions.
During World War II, he worked with the overseas branch as both a chief consultant and psychologist. He later became Dean of Graduate Studies at the University of Washington. The Psychology Department at the University is in a building named Gutherie Hall. Dr. Guthrie made contributions in the philosophy of science, abnormal psychology, social psychology, educational psychology and learning theory (Dallenbach, Bitterman & Newman, 1959). He is remembered best for his theory of learning based on association.