Top 10 Most Influential Psychiatrist

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10. Karl Lashley

Karl Spencer Lashley (1890–1958), born in Davis, West Virginia, was an American psychologist and behaviorist  well-remembered for his influential contributions to the study of learning and memory. His failure to find a single biological locus of memory in the rat’s brain (or “engram”, as he called it) suggested to him that memories were not localized to one part of the brain, but were widely distributed throughout the Cerebral cortex.

Lashley’s work included research on brain mechanisms related to sense receptors and on the cortical basis of motor activities. His major work was done on the measurement of behavior before and after specific, carefully quantified, induced cortical damage in rats. He trained rats to perform specific tasks (seeking a food reward), then lesioned varying portions of the rat cortex, either before or after the animals received the training depending upon the experiment.

The amount of cortical tissue removed had specific effects on acquisition and retention of knowledge, but the location of the removed cortex had no effect on the rats’ performance in the maze. This led Lashley to conclude that memories are not localized but widely distributed across the cortex. Today we know that distribution of engrams does in fact exist, however, the distribution is not equal across all cortical areas, as Lashley assumed.[citation needed]His study of the V1 (primary visual cortex) led him to believe that it was a site of learning and memory storage (i.e an engram) in the brain. He reached this erroneous conclusion due to imperfect lesioning


9. B.F. Skinner

Burrhus Frederic Skinner (March 20, 1904 – August 18, 1990) was an American psychologist, author, inventor, social philosopher, and poet. He was the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University from 1958 until his retirement in 1974. Skinner invented the operant conditioning chamber, innovated his own philosophy of science called Radical Behaviorism, and founded his own school of experimental research psychology—the experimental analysis of behavior.

His analysis of human behavior culminated in his work Verbal Behavior, which has recently seen enormous increase[citation needed]in interest experimentally and in applied settings. Skinner discovered and advanced the rate of response as a dependent variable in psychological research. He invented the cumulative recorder to measure rate of responding as part of his highly influential work on schedules of reinforcement. In a June, 2002 survey, Skinner was listed as the most influential psychologist of the 20th century. He was a prolific author who published 21 books and 180 articles.


8. Jean Piaget

Jean Piaget (9 August 1896 – 16 September 1980) was a Swiss developmental psychologist known for his epistemological studies with children. His theory of cognitive development and epistemological view are together called “genetic epistemology”. Piaget placed great importance on the education of children. As the Director of the International Bureau of Education, he declared in 1934 that “only education is capable of saving our societies from possible collapse, whether violent, or gradual.”

Piaget created the International Centre for Genetic Epistemology in Geneva in 1955 and directed it until 1980. According to Ernst von Glasersfeld, Jean Piaget is “the great pioneer of the constructivist theory of knowing.” Piaget is without doubt one of the most influential developmental psychologists, influencing not only the work of Lev Vygotsky and of Lawrence Kohlberg  but whole generations of eminent academics.

Although subjecting his ideas to massive scrutiny led to innumerable improvements and qualifications of his original model and the emergence of a plethora of neo-Piagetian and post-Piagetian variants, Piaget’s original model has proved to be remarkably robust.


7. Abraham Maslow

Abraham Harold Maslow (April 1, 1908 – June 8, 1970) was an American psychologist. He is noted for his conceptualization of a “hierarchy of human needs”, and is considered the founder of humanistic psychology. Maslow’s thinking was surprisingly original — most psychologists before him had been concerned with the abnormal and the ill. He wanted to know what constituted positive mental health. Humanistic psychology  gave rise to several different therapies, all guided by the idea that people possess the inner resources for growth and healing and that the point of therapy is to help remove obstacles to individuals’ achieving them. The most famous of these was client-centered therapy developed by Carl Rogers.  

Maslow’s influence extended beyond psychology – his work on peak experiences is relevant to religious studies, while his work on management is applicable to transpersonal business studies.  In 2006, conservative social critic Christina Hoff Sommers and practicing psychiatrist Sally Satel asserted that due to lack of empirical support for his ideas, Maslow’s ideas have fallen out of fashion and are “no longer taken seriously in the world of academic psychology.” But Maslow’s has enjoyed a revival of interest and influence among leaders of the positive psychology movement such as Martin Seligman.


6. Max Wertheimer

Max Wertheimer (April 15, 1880 – October 12, 1943) was a Czech-born psychologist who was one of the three founders of Gestalt psychology, along with Kurt Koffka and Wolfgang Köhler.

From 1929 to 1933, Wertheimer was a professor at the University of Frankfurt. When Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of the Third Reich  in 1933, it became apparent to Wertheimer (and to countless other “non-Aryan” intellectuals) that he must leave Germany. In the end, he accepted an offer to teach at The New School in New York. The Wertheimers’ emigration was arranged through the U.S. consulate in Prague, and he and his wife and their children arrived in New York harbor on September 13, 1933.

For the remaining decade of his life, Wertheimer continued to teach at the New School, while remaining in touch with his European colleagues, many of whom had also emigrated to the U.S. Koffka was teaching at Smith College, Kohler at Swarthmore College, and Lewin at Cornell University and the University of Iowa. Although in declining health, he continued to work on his research of problem-solving, or what he preferred to call “productive thinking.” He completed his book (his only book) on the subject (with that phrase as its title) in late September 1943, and died just three weeks later of a heart attack. Wertheimer was buried in Beechwood Cemetery in New Rochelle, New York.


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5. Alfred Binet

Alfred Binet (July 8, 1857 – October 18, 1911), French psychologist and inventor of the first usable intelligence test, known at that time as Binet test basically today called IQ test. His principal goal was to identify students who needed special help in coping with the school curriculum. Along with his collaborator Théodore Simon, Binet published revisions of his intelligence scale in 1908 and 1911, the last appearing just before his death.  

A further refinement of the Binet-Simon scale was published in 1916 by Lewis M. Terman, from Stanford University, who incorporated William Stern’s proposal that an individual’s intelligence level be measured as an (I.Q.). Terman’s test, which he named the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale formed the basis for one of the modern intelligence tests still commonly used today. They are all colloquially known as IQ tests.


4. Wilhelm Wundt

Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt (16 August 1831 – 31 August 1920) was a German  medical doctor, psychologist, physiologist, philosopher, and professor, known today as one of the founding figures of modern psychology. He is widely regarded as the “father of experimental psychology”. In 1879, Wundt founded one of the first formal laboratories for psychological research at the University of Leipzig.  

By creating this laboratory he was able to explore the nature of religious beliefs, identify mental disorders and abnormal behavior, and map damaged areas of the human brain. By doing this he was able to establish psychology as a separate science from other topics. He also formed the first journal for psychological research in 1881.


3. John Watson

John Broadus Watson (January 9, 1878 – September 25, 1958) was an American psychologist who established the psychological school of behaviorism, after doing research on animal behavior. He also conducted the controversial “Little Albert” experiment. Later he went on from psychology to become a popular author on child-rearing, and an acclaimed contributor to the advertising industry.

Watson wrote the book Psychological Care of Infant and Child in 1928, with help from his mistress, turned wife, Rosalie Rayner. Critics then determined that the ideas mainly stemmed from Watson’s beliefs because Rosalie later entitled a self-penned article I am a Mother of Behaviorist Sons. In the book, Watson explained that behaviorists were starting to believe psychological care and analysis was required for infants and children.

He deemed his slogan to be not more babies but better brought up babies. Watson argued for the nurture side of the nature-nurture debate, claiming that the world would benefit from extinguishing pregnancies for twenty years while enough data was gathered to ensure an efficient child-rearing process. J.M. O’Donnell (1985) wrote The Origins of Behaviorism, where he deemed Watson’s views as radical calculations.

O’Donnell’s discontent stemmed partly from Watsons’ description of a happy child, including that the child only cry when in physical pain, can occupy himself through his problem-solving abilities, and that the child stray from asking questions[4]. Behavior analysis of child development as a field is largely thought to have begun with the writings of Watson.


2. Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud, born Sigismund Schlomo Freud (6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939), was a Jewish Austrian neurologist who founded the psychoanalytic school of psychiatry. Freud is best known for his theories of the unconscious mind and the defense mechanism of repression, and for creating the clinical practice of psychoanalysis for treating psychopathology  through dialogue between a patient, technically referred to as an “analysand”, and a psychoanalyst.

Freud is also renowned for his redefinition of sexual desire as the primary motivational energy of human life, as well as for his therapeutic techniques, including the use of free association, his theory of transference in the therapeutic relationship, and the interpretation of dreams as sources of insight into unconscious desires. He was an early neurological researcher into cerebral palsy, and a prolific essayist, drawing on psychoanalysis to contribute to the history, interpretation and critique of culture.  

While many of Freud’s ideas have fallen out of favor or been modified by Neo-Freudians, and modern advances in the field of psychology have shown flaws in some of his theories, Freud’s work remains influential in clinical approaches, and in the humanities and social sciences. He is considered one of the most prominent thinkers of the first half of the 20th century, in terms of originality and intellectual influence.


1. William James

William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a medical doctor. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and on the philosophy of pragmatism. He was the brother of novelist Henry James and of diarist Alice James.  William James was born at the Astor House in New York City.

He was the son of Henry James Sr., an independently wealthy and notoriously eccentric Swedenborgian theologian well acquainted with the literary and intellectual elites of his day. The intellectual brilliance of the James family milieu and the remarkable epistolary talents of several of its members have made them a subject of continuing interest to historians, biographers, and critics.  James interacted with a wide array of writers and scholars throughout his life, including his godfather Ralph Waldo Emerson, his godson William James Sidis, as well as Charles Sanders Peirce, Bertrand Russell, Josiah Royce, Ernst Mach, John Dewey, Walter Lippmann, Mark Twain, Horatio Alger, Jr., Henri Bergson and Sigmund Freud.


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