Who is the Most Famous Psychologists?

Griffith Littlehale

May 11, 2023

Griffith Littlehale

Famous Psychologists

The field of psychology is filled with famous psychologists. From Sigmund Freud to Albert Ellis, these psychologists have left their mark on the study of human behavior. Wilhelm Wundt created the first textbook on experimental psychology in 1874, Principles of Physiological Psychology. He viewed psychology as the scientific study of conscious experience.

Sigmund Freud

After working at the Vienna General Hospital, Freud traveled to Paris to study with neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot. His experience was transformative for him and sparked his interest in the mind-body relationship.

After returning to Vienna, he opened his first practice and began specializing in nervous and brain disorders. He discovered that hypnosis was ineffective, so he developed a new method of treatment where he would ask patients to talk freely and record their responses.

Anna Freud

The youngest of Sigmund Freud’s six children, Anna followed in her father’s footsteps and contributed to the field. She helped found child psychoanalysis and expanded on her father’s theories of the ego’s defense mechanisms in her book The Ego and Its Mechanisms of Defense.

Also published Normality and Pathology in Childhood, which was designed to help teachers, parents, nurses, pediatricians, and lawyers understand childhood development. She emphasized the importance of creating attachments with children.

Lev Vygotsky

Lev Semionovich Vygotsky (he later spelled his name Vygotskii) was born in Orsha, now part of Belarus, in 1896. He was raised in a nonreligious middle-class Jewish family.

After graduation, he returned to Gomel and became active in the social transformation of his city under the Bolshevik government. He also attended a conference on education for the deaf in London.

Wowed the audience and was invited to join the Moscow Institute of Experimental Psychology. He worked as a researcher for nine years before his death from tuberculosis. He developed the sociocultural theory of cognitive development, including the concept of the zone of proximal development.

Albert Ellis

Born in Pittsburgh in 1913, Ellis earned a bachelor’s degree in business and worked as a marriage and family counselor before earning a master’s in clinical psychology. He later became an avid writer on taboo topics, including human sexuality, and founded The Institute for Rational Living, now the Albert Ellis Institute.

Developed rational emotive behavior therapy, a major branch of cognitive behavioral therapy. He had such an impact that in a 1982 survey, clinical psychologists ranked him ahead of Freud when asked who exerted the most influence on their field.

Mary Whiton Calkins

Mary Whiton Calkins was an early pioneer in psychology, both as a researcher and as the first female president of the APA. Her work influenced the self-oriented framework of modern psychology, which is still widely practiced today.

Mary Whiton Calkins research focuses on human memory, perception, and cognitive development. Her work also helped lessen the focus on behaviorism in psychology. Calkins arranged to study with Harvard professors William James and Josiah Royce and, at the same time, studied experimental psychology with Edmund Sanford of Clark University.

Mamie Phipps Clark

Born in 1917 in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Clark’s parents encouraged her to study and earn a college degree. She received scholarships to attend Howard University, where she studied math and physics. However, her professors’ lack of support prompted her to reconsider her career path and enroll in psychology instead.

Her master’s thesis on racial preference and identification in Black children inspired her and her husband, Kenneth Clark, to work together on their doctoral dissertation. Their classic experiment showed children two dolls — one White and the other Black — asking them to pick which they preferred. Their research was instrumental in reversing the Supreme Court’s “separate but equal” education decision.

Raymond Cattell

Raymond Cattell was one of the 20th century’s most influential psychological scientists. He developed new analytic techniques that allowed for more nuanced empirical measurements of the components of personality and intelligence.

Started out his academic career studying chemistry and physics, but after the outbreak of World War I, he changed his major to psychology. He went on to receive a Ph.D. from the University of London in 1929.

Most famous for his theories of fluid and crystallized intelligence but also worked on many other psychological topics, such as the emergence of adulthood. He was a controversial figure, however, due to his support of eugenics and his racial theories.

Edward B. Titchener

Edward Bradford Titchener brought Wilhelm Wundt’s experimental psychology to America. He founded the first psychological laboratory in the country and wrote an influential textbook. He also created the largest doctoral program in psychology and guided many students, including Margaret Floy Washburn, the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in psychology.

Structuralism sought to analyze thoughts and sensations into their component parts in a manner similar to chemistry. Titchener was a major force in the development of psychology as an empirical science.

Clark Leonard Hull

After a serious bout of polio, Hull decided to switch from his original career plans as an engineer to psychology. He was influenced by the pioneers of behaviorism, including Edward Thorndike and John B. Watson, who emphasized the objective study of behavior.

Despite health and financial struggles, Hull was able to earn his degree in psychology and went on to teach many of the next generation of psychologists. He is known for his drive theory and research on hypnosis but also for his emphasis on rigorous scientific methods.