The most Influential Psychologists in History

A review of General Psychology 2002, compiled a list of the 99 most influential psychologists based on a set of given criteria. I found it particularly interesting to note that one part of the criteria was a survey of 1725 members of the American Psychological Association, peer group of those selected.

The top ten on the list

B.F. Skinner
Sigmund Freud
Albert Bandura
Jean Piaget
Carl Rogers
William James
Erik Erikson
Ivan Pavlov
Kurt Lewin
Carl Jung

Who were these psychologists? I’ve listed four of the top men below with a short description of their work. Also listed are four women who, among many others, made significant contributions to psychology.

B.F. Skinner: (1904-1990) American psychologist, is best known for Operant Conditioning and Scheduling Reinforcement. Starting as a writer, and failing, Skinner went to Harvard and obtained his doctorate in 1936. He conducted research and became a successful in writer for psychology.

Sigmund Freud: (1856-1939) best known for and called the father of psychoanalysis,and introduction of the unconscious mind. The Theory of Psychosexual Behavior, The Id, Ego and Superego made Freud became a household name. He has loyal followers today and he has always had his critics.

Jean Piaget: (1896-1980) best known for The Cognitive Theory and his impact on education reform. Piaget married the disciplines of philosophy and empiricism. Piaget was one of the pioneers in psychology whose work is continually being built upon.

William James: (1842-1910) called the American father of psychology, metaphysical view, he worked in physiology, psychology and philosophy. “Principles of Psychology” published 1890. His influence was broad, reaching thinkers across the ocean and at home.

Ana Freud: (1895-1982) daughter of Sigmund Freud, psychoanalyst, Ego psychology; remained loyal to her father’s theories hoping one day to be named his successor. She was dedicated to emotional well being of children, and she, at last, became the symbolic successor to her father.

Mary Whiton Calkins: (1863-1930) Among first generation of women psychologists. She was denied a Ph.D. because of her gender, but attended Harvard Seminars and lectures. Known for Paired-Association and research on dreams. She worked on the faculty of Wellesley and was known as a formidable force.

Karen Horney: (1885-1952) presented a different view of neurosis, concerned with control and coping. Horney, herself seemed to suffer from stress and loss, she entered psychoanalysis for her own health. She continued to teach until her death.

Melanie Klein: 1882-1960) Influenced early on by Freud, she later replaced his stages of development with object relations. Klein never obtained an academic degree, but was nonetheless a very successful psychoanalyst for children and later for adults. She developed play therapy.

These are a few of the men and women who gave their best to the budding profession of psychology and psychiatry. The list is far too long to give credit to the psychologists who helped psychology along its road to maturity. From these pioneers came many others who built upon the foundation of their work.