Famous 20th Century Psychologists

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud
6
Famous As: Neurologist
Birthdate: May 6, 1856
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Příbor, Czechia
Died: September 23, 1939

Regarded as the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud was a neurologist. Despite suffering criticism, psychoanalysis remains influential in the fields of psychology and psychiatry; such is the influence Freud has on humanities. Scholars believe that Freud is one of the most influential personalities of the 20th century and that his impact is comparable to that of Marxism and Darwinism.

 2 B. F. Skinner

B. F. Skinner
4
Famous As: American psychologist
Birthdate: March 20, 1904
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: August 18, 1990

B. F. Skinner was an American behaviorist, psychologist, inventor, author, and social philosopher. Skinner, who taught psychology at Harvard University, is credited with founding a school of thought in psychology called the experimental analysis of behavior. Regarded as a pioneer of modern behaviorism, Skinner was named the 20th century's most influential psychologist, according to a survey conducted in June 2002. 

 3 Carl Jung

Carl Jung
4
Famous As: Psychiatrist
Birthdate: July 26, 1875
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Kesswil, Thurgau, Switzerland
Died: June 6, 1961

Widely regarded as the father of analytical psychology, Carl Jung is one of the most important contributors to symbolization and dream analysis. The concepts of socionics and a popular psychometric instrument called Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) were developed from Jung's theory. Apart from working as a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Carl Jung was also an artist, craftsman, builder, and prolific writer.

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 4 Jean Piaget

Jean Piaget
6
Birthdate: August 9, 1896
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Died: September 16, 1980
Swiss psychologist and academic Jean Piaget is remembered for his work on child development and genetic epistemology, consisting of his theory of cognitive development. He also established the International Center for Genetic Epistemology and was the director of the International Bureau of Education. He was an honorary Harvard doctorate.

 5 Abraham Maslow

Abraham Maslow
6
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: April 1, 1908
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: June 8, 1970

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist best remembered for creating an idea in psychology called Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Maslow, who advocated self-actualization, is also credited with co-founding the school of transpersonal psychology. In 1967, he was adjudged Humanist of the Year by the popular non-profit organization, American Humanist Association.

 6 Erik Erikson

Erik Erikson
6
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: June 15, 1902
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Frankfurt, Germany
Died: May 12, 1994

Erik Erikson was a German-American psychoanalyst and developmental psychologist best remembered for developing a theory on the psychological development of humans. He is credited with coining the term identity crisis, the failure to achieve ego identity. Also a prolific writer, Erikson won a US National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize for his book Gandhi's Truth.

 7 Carl Rogers

Carl Rogers
4
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: January 8, 1902
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Oak Park
Died: February 4, 1987

Psychologist Carl Rogers was the first to introduce a client-centric approach to psychotherapy and addressed the patient as the client. Besides working on troubled children, he also taught at various institutes, such as the University of Chicago. On Becoming a Person remains one of his best-known books.

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 8 Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman
6
Famous As: American-Israeli psychologist
Birthdate: March 5, 1934
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Tel Aviv, Israel

Daniel Kahneman is an Israeli economist and psychologist. He was honored with the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his work on behavioral economics. In 2011, Kahneman was named among the top global thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine. In 2015, Daniel Kahneman was ranked seventh in the most influential economist in the world list published by The Economist.

 9 John B. Watson

John B. Watson
4
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: January 9, 1878
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Travelers Rest, South Carolina, United States
Died: September 25, 1958

John B. Watson was the first to introduce the theory of behaviorism to psychology. He believed human behavior, like animal behavior, should be studied under objective and experimental conditions. One of his experiments included conditioning the fear of white rats into an 11-year-old boy he named Little Albert.

 10 Albert Bandura

Albert Bandura
4
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: December 4, 1925
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Mundare, Canada

Albert Bandura is a Canadian-American psychologist who has made significant contributions to several fields of psychology, such as personality psychology, therapy, and social cognitive theory. Regarded as the greatest living psychologist, Bandura is also counted among the most influential psychologists ever. He has been honored with over 16 honorary degrees. In 2016, Albert Bandura received the National Medal of Science.

 11 Philip Zimbardo

Philip Zimbardo
6
Famous As: Psychologist, University teacher
Birthdate: March 23, 1933
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States

Psychologist and Stanford professor Philip Zimbardo is best known for his Stanford prison experiment, which proved how prisoners get abusive due to situational factors. He is also known for his books The Lucifer Effect and The Time Paradox and has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Psychological Foundation.

 12 Stanley Milgram

Stanley Milgram
4
Famous As: Psychologist, University teacher, Sociologist
Birthdate: August 15, 1933
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York City
Died: December 20, 1984

Social psychologist Stanley Milgram was inspired by the suffering of the Jews during the Holocaust to understand what drove people to harm others, and thus created his Milgram experiment. He also taught at prestigious institutes such as Harvard and Yale. His studies also included the six degrees of separation concept.

 13 Anna Freud

Anna Freud
3
Famous As: Psychoanalyst
Birthdate: December 3, 1895
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: October 9, 1982

Anna Freud was a British psychoanalyst. The daughter of Sigmund Freud, Anna followed in the footsteps of her father and made important contributions to the field of psychoanalysis. Alongside Melanie Klein and Hermine Hug-Hellmuth, Anna Freud is counted among the founders of psychoanalytic child psychology. Her work and contributions were featured in a documentary titled The Century of the Self.

 14 Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson
8
Famous As: Clinical Psychologist
Birthdate: June 12, 1962
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Edmonton, Canada

Canadian clinical psychologist, Jordan Peterson, became internationally known in the 2010s for his views on cultural and political issues. He became active on YouTube in 2016 and shared many videos that have since received millions of views. He has faced criticism for his sexist and misogynistic views. Despite the controversies, he continues to be popular and is a bestselling author.

 15 Paul Ekman

Paul Ekman
3
Famous As: Psychologist, Anthropologist, Sociologist, Non-fiction writer, University teacher
Birthdate: February 15, 1934
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Washington, D.C.

 16 Karen Horney

Karen Horney
3
Famous As: Psychoanalyst
Birthdate: September 16, 1885
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Blankenese, Hamburg, Germany
Died: December 4, 1952

Remembered for her pioneering work on feminist psychology, Karen Horney studied medicine at a time when women weren’t allowed in universities. Going against Sigmund Freud’s concept of penis envy, she suggested the idea of womb envy. She believed psychological differences weren’t rooted in gender but rather depended on the socio-cultural influences.

 17 Martin Seligman

Martin Seligman
3
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: August 12, 1942
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Albany, New York, United States

 18 Kurt Lewin

Kurt Lewin
3
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: September 9, 1890
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Mogilno, Poland
Died: February 12, 1947
Legendary social psychologist Kurt Lewin is remembered for his field theory of behavior. He was a pioneer in the research on group dynamics. While he had served in the army in World War I, an injury made him get back to university to complete his PhD.

 19 Timothy Francis Leary

Timothy Francis Leary
4
Famous As: American psychologist
Birthdate: October 22, 1920
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States
Died: May 31, 1996

Psychologist and former Harvard professor Timothy Leary was an advocate of psychedelic drugs. His research experiments included the controversial Concord Prison Experiment and Marsh Chapel Experiment. After being fired from Harvard for his actions, he continued promoting his theories through catchphrases such as “turn on, tune in, drop out.”

 20 John Dewey

John Dewey
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 20, 1859
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Burlington, Vermont, United States
Died: June 1, 1952

A staunch advocate of progressive education and liberalism, the American philosopher and psychologist was the founder of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. John Dewey’s famous writings included The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology and Human Nature and Conduct. According to him, passion for knowledge and intellectual curiosity were central to a teacher. He called himself a democratic socialist.

 21 William Moulton Marston

William Moulton Marston
4
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: May 9, 1893
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Saugus, Massachusetts
Died: May 2, 1947
Psychologist William Moulton Marston, also known as “Charles Moulton,” is remembered for inventing a precursor of the lie detector, along with his wife, Elizabeth Holloway. He was also a comic book author, who created the superheroine Wonder Woman. He was in a polyamorous relationship with his wife and Olive Byrne.

 22 Lawrence Kohlberg

Lawrence Kohlberg
3
Famous As: Psychologist, Academic, Non-fiction writer
Birthdate: October 25, 1927
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: New York City
Died: January 19, 1987

 23 Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker
4
Famous As: Psychologist, Linguists
Birthdate: September 18, 1954
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Steven Pinker is a Canadian-American linguist, cognitive psychologist, and popular science author. He is also a supporter of the computational theory of mind and evolutionary psychology. His works have earned him awards from organizations like the National Academy of Sciences, the American Psychological Association, and the American Humanist Association. In 2013, he was named in Prospect magazine's World Thinkers list.

 24 Jerome Bruner

Jerome Bruner
3
Famous As: Psychologist, University teacher
Birthdate: October 1, 1915
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City
Died: June 5, 2016

 25 Albert Ellis

Albert Ellis
3
Famous As: Psychologist, Psychotherapist
Birthdate: September 27, 1913
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: July 24, 2007

 26 N. K. Jemisin

N. K. Jemisin
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: September 19, 1972
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Iowa City, Iowa, U.S.

N. K. Jemisin became the first writer to win the Hugo Best Novel award thrice consecutively and is best known for her Inheritance trilogy and her Broken Earth series. The African-American author is also a trained psychologist and has worked as a counsellor in several universities.

 27 Aaron T. Beck

Aaron T. Beck
3
Famous As: Psychiatrist, University teacher, Psychologist
Birthdate: July 18, 1921
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Providence

 28 Eugene Landy

Eugene Landy
4
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: November 26, 1934
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: March 22, 2006

 29 John Bowlby

John Bowlby
3
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: February 26, 1907
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Bournemouth, London, England
Died: September 2, 1990

 30 Jacques Lacan

Jacques Lacan
4
Famous As: Psychoanalyst, Psychiatrist
Birthdate: April 13, 1901
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 9, 1981
French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist Jacques Lacan is remembered for his philosophical approach that explored Freudian concepts, to which he applied elements of structuralism and anthropology to create his own concepts. His controversial suggestions led to his expulsion from the International Psychoanalytic Association. One of his key concepts was “Return to Freud.”

 31 John Money

John Money
4
Famous As: Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Physician, University teacher
Birthdate: July 8, 1921
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Morrinsville
Died: July 7, 2006

 32 Theodor W. Adorno

Theodor W. Adorno
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: September 11, 1903
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Frankfurt, Germany
Died: August 6, 1969

One of the most prominent intellectuals of the 20th century, Theodor Adorno was a pioneer of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory and despised the culture industry. Born to a singer mother, the German sociologist grew up amid music and could even play Beethoven on the piano by 12.

 33 Harry Harlow

Harry Harlow
4
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: October 31, 1905
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Fairfield, Iowa, U.S.
Died: December 6, 1981

Psychologist Harry Harlow proved that monkeys raised without their mothers exhibited abnormal psychological development. He had a long association with the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he conducted most of his experiments. He was criticized for using dramatic names, such as “pit of despair,” for his experimental devices.

 34 Herbert Simon

Herbert Simon
4
Famous As: Economist, Political scientist, sociologist, psychologist, and professor
Birthdate: June 15, 1916
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Milwaukee
Died: February 9, 2001

Herbert Simon was an American computer scientist, economist, cognitive psychologist, and political scientist. Best remembered for his theories of satisficing and bounded rationality, Simon was honored with the prestigious Turing Award in 1975. In 1978, he won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Herbert Simon is considered one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence, complex systems, and organization theory.

 35 Amos Tversky

Amos Tversky
9
Famous As: Psychologist, Economist, University teacher
Birthdate: March 16, 1937
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Haifa
Died: June 2, 1996

Amos Tversky was an Israeli cognitive and mathematical psychologist. He is known for his contribution to the discovery of systematic human cognitive bias. The son of a social worker and politician, he received his doctorate from the University of Michigan before embarking on an academic career. He worked closely with his longtime collaborator, Daniel Kahneman, and wrote several papers together. 

 36 Jonathan Haidt

Jonathan Haidt
4
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: October 19, 1963
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City, New York, U.S.

 37 Henry Murray

Henry Murray
4
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: May 13, 1893
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York City, New York
Died: June 23, 1988

 38 France Nuyen

France Nuyen
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: July 31, 1939
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Marseille, France

 39 Elizabeth Loftus

Elizabeth Loftus
3
Famous As: Psychologist, Statistician, University teacher
Birthdate: October 16, 1944
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Los Angeles

 40 Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
4
Famous As: Psychologist, University teacher, Psychiatrist
Birthdate: September 29, 1934
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Rijeka

 41 Raymond Cattell

Raymond Cattell
3
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: March 20, 1905
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: West Bromwich, England
Died: February 2, 1998

 42 Pamela Stephenson

Pamela Stephenson
9
Famous As: Psychologist, Psychotherapist, Author, Television presenter, Stage actor, Film actor
Birthdate: December 4, 1949
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Takapuna

 43 Carol S. Dweck

Carol S. Dweck
4
Famous As: Physiologists
Birthdate: October 17, 1946
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States

Renowned psychologist Carol S. Dweck has taught at both Columbia and Harvard and is now a professor at Stanford. She is best known for her research on fixed mindset and growth mindset and has also penned popular books such as Self-theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality and Development.

 44 Mary Ainsworth

Mary Ainsworth
3
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: December 1, 1913
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Glendale, Ohio, United States
Died: March 21, 1999

American-Canadian developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth is best remembered for her contributions in developing the attachment theory. She devised the Strange situation procedure during the 1970s to observe early emotional connect and relationship between a caregiver and child. She was ranked as the 97th most cited psychologist of the 20th century in a 2002 survey of Review of General Psychology.

 45 Robert Sternberg

Robert Sternberg
3
Famous As: Psychologist, University teacher
Birthdate: December 8, 1949
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New Jersey

 46 Dan Ariely

Dan Ariely
4
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: April 29, 1967
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York City, New York, U.S.

Dan Ariely is an Israeli-American professor and author. He is the founder of the research institution, The Center for Advanced Hindsight, and the co-founder of several companies. Currently, he is also the James B. Duke Professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. He is the author of the three New York Times bestsellers as well. 

 47 Edward Thorndike

Edward Thorndike
3
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: August 31, 1874
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Williamsburg, Massachusetts, United States
Died: August 9, 1949

 48 Christine Blasey Ford

Christine Blasey Ford
4
Famous As: Professor
Birthdate: November 28, 1966
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: United States
Palo Alto University professor and Stanford researcher Christine Blasey Ford made headlines when, in 2018, she accused U.S. Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her back in 1982. Apart from teaching psychology, she has also been a biostatistician. She was also named to Time 100 in 2019.

 49 Rupert Sheldrake

Rupert Sheldrake
3
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: June 28, 1942
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England, UK

 50 Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner
3
Famous As: Teacher, Psychologist, University teacher, Neurologist
Birthdate: July 11, 1943
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Scranton

Cognitive psychologist and Harvard professor Howard Gardner is known for introducing the theory of multiple intelligences, first mentioned in his book Frames of Mind. Born to Jewish immigrants in the US, Gardner was a talented pianist in his younger days and later studied social relations and developmental psychology at Harvard.