Top 10 Famous Psychologists In Recent History

Psychology is the study of the human mind, inner life and of people’s behavior. The word is composed of two Greek words, namely psyche (what soul is) and logos (that means reason). It is therefore the reason for the soul. Ancient Greek dates psychology as a science. Indeed, the first modern psychologists only came to speak not until just two centuries ago, driven by an almost instinctive curiosity.

After all, we think we influence our own behavior, although it does not explain much of our behavior with exact reason. The list is of inexplicable behaviors and endless thought patterns. Psychologists for over two centuries have been trying to understand our soul.

That does not mean we have not achieved the past decades.

There are many great thinkers who have been in psychology that bring us giant steps forward. We give the top ten great & famous psychologists the opportunity to present themselves.

1 Ivan Pavlov

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was a Russian physiologist born on September 26, 1849. Pavlov was a famous psychologist best known for his research on saliva behavior in dogs. Pavlov knew that dogs were literally salivating when they smelled food.

Pavlov linked the call to the time when the food was presented. The result was that the dogs were salivating when they heard both the food and the ringing bell as well. Later, Pavlov just let go of the bell without presenting food and found that the dogs still started salivating.

He had learned that the bell meant that there had to be saliva. This learning method is also called conditioning. This was a huge discovery in his time. In 1904, however, Pavlov Nobel received the prize.

The Work of the Digestive glands, Psychopathology and Psychiatry, Conditioned Reflexes and Psychiatry are few of his eminent works.

He died on February 27, 1936, just before the outbreak of the Second World War.

A funny fact: Pavlov was a fierce opponent of communism. He is even suspected of the following statement about communism, which he expressed after he had visited the United States and that system could be encountered: “For the kind of social experiment performed here, I would not have the hind legs of a frog designed for that purpose.”

2 John Watson

John B. Watson was born in America on January 9, 1878, and died after 80 years on 25 September 1958. He therefore witnessed both the first and the Second World War

As Pavlov had discovered that we learn reactions to certain stimuli. He effects a certain sub-movement within the fledgling discipline of psychology, “behaviorism”. Watson was one of the greatest thinkers on behaviorism who believed that we as humans cannot understand our own psyche other than by observing behavior.

He authored several books, like – Behaviorism, Psychology: From the standpoint of a Behaviorist, Behavior: An Introduction, Conditioned Emotional Reactions, etc.

Watson focused not only humans but also mice for his research and closely examined their response to the most diverse things. But it was not all mice! He also applied behaviorism to his two sons.

3 Skinner

Also known as Burrhus Frederic (BF) Skinner. Skinner was born on March 20, 1904 in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. Like Watson, Skinner was a behaviorist and he researched Pavlov’s ideas of conditioning. While Pavlov linked stimuli (a stimulus is an event in our environment that accomplished behavior and stimuli is the plural of it) to certain behaviors, Skinner tried to teach his patients to do something or let through penalties or reward.

Simple works are called ‘operant’ conditioning as follows: if you want a mouse to turn left, then give him a power jolt every time the subject goes to the right and a sweet as he moves towards the left. This works and constitutes a long-term outcome for the animals and people to remember this for a long time after the punishment or reward is taken away. It was Skinner’s greatest contribution to psychology.

A fun fact is that Skinner never wanted to become a psychologist. He first earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature and wanted to be a professional writer. However, because he had little literary talent, he finally decided to study but then what else and why not psychology. He obtained his doctorate at Harvard which is one of the best universities in the world. He was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1968.

Despite being little talented, he authored books like Walden Two, Verbal Behavior, Beyond Freedom and Dignity, Science and Human Behavior, The Technology of Teaching and many more.

He died on August 18, 1990, in Cambridge.

4 Sigmund Freud

Officially named Sigismund Schlomo, Freud was born on May 6, 1856 in Austria. He died in his eighties at the age of 83. Freud was of Jewish origin, a year earlier he was relocated to the United Kingdom. There, he died of cancer presumably because of his obstinate smoking habits.

Freud had a lot of sense and nonsense contributed to psychology. The most sensible contributions are the theories surrounding psychoanalysis. Like Pavlov, Freud was no official psychologist but a neurologist who studied brains and it’s functions. He wrote many books about mental disorders to a degree of neuroticism created by certain events in a person’s development. Depending on the event and the stage in which a person was at that time, the effects are visible later in life.

We are not always aware of the events in the past. Some events are just too far back in our history to be remembered, but other events can. According to Freud, those events can be suppressed actively. Through psychoanalysis, a form of introspection (looking in), hypnosis and dream analysis, one can remember the things of the past.

He married a lady named Martha Bernays from a prominent family of rabbis. They had six children, of which he desired more for his daughters than his sons. He was not actually a loving father.

5 Carl Jung

Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss who was born in the heyday of Freud, on July 26, 1875. He received the Zurich prize for his work and literature in 1932 and was an honored as the member of the prestigious Royal Society of Medicine in 1938. He is also best known for its continuation of Freud’s ideas. While Freud’s ideas today are considered obsolete by most, Jung’s ideas are still popular among some.

Freud saw sex (male or female) as a symbolic difference which had unwittingly major implications in our psyche. He built a theory around archetypes, known as models for humans, their behavior or personalities who can send or influenced by an everyday person’s behavior. Jung believed that we have the split between introvert and extrovert.

As a young boy, Jung was once attacked by a fellow student, and lost consciousness. He was suspected of epilepsy. Jung overheard his father expressing his worries that Jung could never fend for himself with this condition. Due to this, the 12-year-old Jung once again went back on his studies and developed into world-famous psychologist.

He died at the age of 85, on June 6, 1961.

6Anna Freud

A Flashback to the Freud family, Anna, the daughter of Sigmund was born in Austria on December 3, 1895. Anna was a pioneer of child psychology and her father used psychoanalysis to this audience. That gave her insight into the differences between adults and children. Anna would have ever said, “if some desires are not satisfied, do not be surprised. We call it life.”

Incidentally, we will learn more about unfulfilled desires to Maslow, a few songs later!

The Ego and The Mechanisms of Difference, War and children and Infants without Families are few of her notable works.

She died on October 9, 1982, at the age of 86.

7Erik Erikson

Erik Homburger Erikson, born on June 15, 1902. Erik was a Danish psychologist who like Anna, specialized in child psychology. He first studied with Anna, but later only on the development stages of the identity of children. Erikson was of Danish descent, but was born in Germany and moved to avoid the war to America.

Erikson belongs to the post-Freudian psychologist stream called “ego-psychologists”. They looked at the function of our ego and sense of identity in particular. Why do we identify with certain people or groups, not with others, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of such behavior? Erikson authored 9 books on diverse topics, like child psychology, history, movements etc. Erik died on May 12, 1988.

8Jean Piaget

William Fritz Jean Piaget was a Swiss, born on August 9, 1896. He like Anna Freud and Erik Erikson who studied the development of children. He focused on the cognitive abilities (intelligence) and was one of the first psychologists who suggested that children think in an entirely different way than adults. He firmly believed that children were simply miniature adults.

However, Piaget found that children possess structurally different thought processes and this ensures that children can learn some things easier than elders, while other things are more difficult. His work is even today a major issue for developmental psychologists.

His famous books also revolved around child psychology. They include-The Psychology of the Child, The Psychology of Intelligence, The Language and Thought of The child, The Moral Judgment, and many more to count.

He died at the age of 84 years on September 16, 1980.

9Abraham Maslow

No joke! Abraham Harold Maslow was born on April 1st born in the year 1908. Maslow was an American (of Russian Jewish parents), strongly opposed to the behaviorist thought pattern of Watson and Skinner. Maslow in his younger years like Watson and Skinner was a supporter of behaviorism, but in the sixties he turned to so-called humanistic psychology.

According to him, we owe the Maslow Pyramid, a schematic overview posing principle indicates that every individual needs are arranged hierarchically. These needs must be resolved in order. A person cannot fulfill desires or the ‘higher’ needs as lower needs are not met.

At the bottom we find physical needs such as food, drink, sleep and sex. The next level includes the need for safety and security. After an extensive circle of friends to have developed is level four on the agenda, the need for appreciation and recognition.

Maslow suffered a heart attack on June 8, 1970, while he was jogging in Menlo Park, California.

10Carl Rogers

Carl Ransom Rogers was born on January 8, 1902 in Oak Park, Illinois, U.S. He was associated with prestigious world institutions like- Ohio State University, University of Chicago, and Alma Mater- University of Wisconsin and Columbia University, Rogers gained name for his contribution to counseling and therapy.

Along with Maslow, he founded humanistic psychology. Rogers initially came from a very religious family and wanted to be a preacher. Rogers also served the Human Ecology Fund as a board member, a CIA funded organization.

One of the major contributions is simply to express with this saying: “his experience is his reality”: what Rogers meant was that a man’s reality is exactly what that person perceives. In other words, the reality is that grass is blue if the person has that perception.

The idea that people act on what they think that’s reality, rather than a real objective reality, was a novelty. This is also a recognition that much has been done to promote psychological counseling.

He received numerous awards, which included- Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Psychology (1956), Award for Distinguished Contribution to Applied Psychology (1972) and 1964 Humanist of the Year. In addition, he has more than 30 books to his name, all with psychology as the crux.

Rogers died at the age of 85, on February 4, 1987.