Who are the most influential thinkers in world?
Identify leaders in your chosen discipline, research top professors in your area of study, and search for schools based on the luminaries who most inspire you!
Note: These rankings change dynamically as our artificial intelligence system learns new things and incorporates new publications and citations. Academics are constantly doing research and publishing new insights, with the result that our measure of influence is subject to continual adjustments. For quality assurance reasons, however, we forgo real-time changes, with most public updates happening only quarterly. In any case, don’t be surprised to see our rankings change over time.Methodology: How and Why We Rank by Influence …
1856 - 1939 (83 years)
Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst.Freud was born to Galician Jewish parents in the Moravian town of Freiberg, in the Austrian Empire. He qualified as a doctor of medicine in 1881 at the University of Vienna. Upon completing his habilitation in 1885, he was appointed a docent in neuropathology and became an affiliated professor in 1902. Freud lived and worked in Vienna, having set up his clinical practice there in 1886. In 1938, Freud left Austria to
1875 - 1961 (86 years)
Carl Gustav Jung , was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. Jung's work has been influential in the fields of psychiatry, anthropology, archaeology, literature, philosophy, psychology and religious studies. Jung worked as a research scientist at the famous Burghölzli hospital, under Eugen Bleuler. During this time, he came to the attention of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. The two men conducted a lengthy correspondence and collaborated, for a while, on a joint vision of human psychology.
1842 - 1910 (68 years)
William James was an American philosopher, historian, and psychologist, and the first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States. James is considered to be a leading thinker of the late nineteenth century, one of the most influential philosophers of the United States, and the "Father of American psychology".
1832 - 1920 (88 years)
Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt was a German physiologist, philosopher, and professor, known today as one of the founders of modern psychology. Wundt, who distinguished psychology as a science from philosophy and biology, was the first person ever to call himself a psychologist. He is widely regarded as the "father of experimental psychology". In 1879, at University of Leipzig, Wundt founded the first formal laboratory for psychological research. This marked psychology as an independent field of study. By creating this laboratory he was able to establish psychology as a separate science from other d
1901 - 1981 (80 years)
Jacques Marie Émile Lacan was a French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist who has been called "the most controversial psycho-analyst since Freud". Giving yearly seminars in Paris from 1953 to 1981, Lacan’s work has marked the French and international intellectual landscape, having made a significant impact on continental philosophy and cultural theory in areas such as post-structuralism, critical theory, feminist theory and film theory as well as on psychoanalysis itself.
1902 - 1987 (85 years)
Carl Ransom Rogers was an American psychologist and among the founders of the humanistic approach in psychology. Rogers is widely considered to be one of the founding fathers of psychotherapy research and was honored for his pioneering research with the Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions by the American Psychological Association in 1956.
1896 - 1980 (84 years)
Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist known for his work on child development. Piaget's 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." His theory of child development is studied in pre-service education programs. Educators continue to incorporate constructivist-based strategies.
1908 - 1970 (62 years)
Abraham Harold Maslow was an American psychologist who was best known for creating Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization. Maslow was a psychology professor at Brandeis University, Brooklyn College, New School for Social Research, and Columbia University. He stressed the importance of focusing on the positive qualities in people, as opposed to treating them as a "bag of symptoms". A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Maslow as the tenth most cited psyc...
1878 - 1958 (80 years)
John Broadus Watson was an American psychologist who popularized the scientific theory of behaviorism, establishing it as a psychological school. Watson advanced this change in the psychological discipline through his 1913 address at Columbia University, titled Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It. Through his behaviorist approach, Watson conducted research on animal behavior, child rearing, and advertising, as well as conducting the controversial "Little Albert" experiment and the Kerplunk experiment. He was also the editor of Psychological Review from 1910 to 1915. A Review of General Psy...
1896 - 1934 (38 years)
Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky was a Soviet psychologist, known for his work on psychological development in children. He published on a diverse range of subjects, and from multiple views as his perspective changed over the years. Among his students was Alexander Luria and Kharkiv school of psychology.
1900 - 1980 (80 years)
Erich Seligmann Fromm was a German social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist. He was a German Jew who fled the Nazi regime and settled in the US. He was one of the founders of The William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis and Psychology in New York City and was associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory.
1925 - 2021 (96 years)
Albert Bandura, who passed away July 26, 2021, held the title of David Starr Jordan Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University. A top name in social psychology, Bandura was born in Mundare, Alberta, Canada, and earned his bachelor of arts at the University of British Columbia in 1949. He soon moved to the U.S. and earned his MA in 1951 and PhD in 1952 at the University of Iowa. Bandura began teaching at Stanford in 1953.
1904 - 1990 (86 years)
Burrhus Frederic Skinner was an American psychologist, behaviorist, author, inventor, and social philosopher. He was a professor of psychology at Harvard University from 1958 until his retirement in 1974.
1859 - 1952 (93 years)
John Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. He was one of the most prominent American scholars in the first half of the twentieth century.
1890 - 1947 (57 years)
Kurt Lewin was a German-American psychologist, known as one of the modern pioneers of social, organizational, and applied psychology in the United States. Exiled from the land of his birth, Lewin made a new life for himself, in which he defined himself and his contributions within three lenses of analysis: applied research, action research, and group communication, which were his major offerings to the field of communication.
1882 - 1960 (78 years)
Melanie Klein was an Austrian-British author and psychoanalyst known for her work in child analysis. She was the primary figure in the development of object relations theory. Klein suggested that pre-verbal existential anxiety in infancy catalyzed the formation of the unconscious, resulting in the unconscious splitting of the world into good and bad idealizations. In her theory, how the child resolves that split depends on the constitution of the child and the character of nurturing the child experiences; the quality of resolution can inform the presence, absence, and/or type of distresses a ...
1895 - 1982 (87 years)
Anna Freud was a British psychoanalyst of Austrian-Jewish descent. She was born in Vienna, the sixth and youngest child of Sigmund Freud and Martha Bernays. She followed the path of her father and contributed to the field of psychoanalysis. Alongside Hermine Hug-Hellmuth and Melanie Klein, she may be considered the founder of psychoanalytic child psychology.
1915 - 2016 (101 years)
Jerome Seymour Bruner was an American psychologist who made significant contributions to human cognitive psychology and cognitive learning theory in educational psychology. Bruner was a senior research fellow at the New York University School of Law. He received a B.A. in 1937 from Duke University and a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1941. He taught and did research at Harvard University, the University of Oxford, and New York University. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Bruner as the 28th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.
1928 - Present (93 years)
Noam Chomsky currently holds joint appointments at MIT as Institute Professor Emeritus, and the University of Arizona as Laureate Professor. Chomsky completed his university studies between the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard.
1897 - 1957 (60 years)
Wilhelm Reich was an Austrian doctor of medicine and psychoanalyst, a member of the second generation of analysts after Sigmund Freud. The author of several influential books, most notably The Impulsive Character , Character Analysis , and The Mass Psychology of Fascism , Reich became known as one of the most radical figures in the history of psychiatry.
1934 - Present (87 years)
Daniel Kahneman is an Israeli-American psychologist and economist who is currently the Eugene Higgins Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs Emeritus for the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. He earned a B.S. in psychology from Hebrew University and an M.A. and Ph.D from the University of California, Berkeley. Kahneman is world-famous for his groundbreaking work on the psychology of judgement and decision making. His studies, along with Amos Tversky, developed into prospect theory which examines behavioral economics and finance and how huma
1846 - 1924 (78 years)
Granville Stanley Hall was a pioneering American psychologist and educator. His interests focused on childhood development and evolutionary theory. Hall was the first president of the American Psychological Association and the first president of Clark University. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Hall as the 72nd most cited psychologist of the 20th century, in a tie with Lewis Terman.
1957 - Present (64 years)
Leda Cosmides currently holds the title of Distinguished Professor at the University of California Santa Barbara. She also co-founded and co-directs the UCSB Center for Evolutionary Psychology. Cosmides completed both her undergraduate studies in biology and her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology at Harvard University by 1985.
1952 - Present (69 years)
John Tooby is an American anthropologist, who, together with psychologist wife Leda Cosmides, helped pioneer the field of evolutionary psychology.Biography Tooby received his PhD in Biological Anthropology from Harvard University in 1989 and is currently Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
1867 - 1927 (60 years)
Edward Bradford Titchener was an English psychologist who studied under Wilhelm Wundt for several years. Titchener is best known for creating his version of psychology that described the structure of the mind: structuralism. After becoming a professor at Cornell University, he created the largest doctoral program at that time in the United States. His first graduate student, Margaret Floy Washburn, became the first woman to be granted a PhD in psychology .
1884 - 1939 (55 years)
Otto Rank was an Austrian psychoanalyst, writer, and philosopher. Born in Vienna, he was one of Sigmund Freud's closest colleagues for 20 years, a prolific writer on psychoanalytic themes, editor of the two leading analytic journals of the era, managing director of Freud's publishing house, and a creative theorist and therapist. In 1926, Rank left Vienna for Paris and, for the remainder of his life, led a successful career as a lecturer, writer, and therapist in France and the United States.
1860 - 1944 (84 years)
James McKeen Cattell , American psychologist, was the first professor of psychology in the United States, teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, and long-time editor and publisher of scientific journals and publications, most notably the journal Science. He also served on the board of trustees for Science Service, now known as , from 1921–1944.
1880 - 1943 (63 years)
Max Wertheimer was an Austro-Hungarian psychologist who was one of the three founders of Gestalt psychology, along with Kurt Koffka and Wolfgang Köhler. He is known for his book, Productive Thinking, and for conceiving the phi phenomenon as part of his work in Gestalt psychology.
1902 - 1994 (92 years)
Erik Homburger Erikson was a German-American developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst known for his theory on psychological development of human beings. He may be most famous for coining the phrase identity crisis. His son, Kai T. Erikson, is a noted American sociologist.
1909 - 1994 (85 years)
Rollo Reece May was an American existential psychologist and author of the influential book Love and Will . He is often associated with humanistic psychology and existentialist philosophy, and alongside Viktor Frankl, was a major proponent of existential psychotherapy. The philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich was a close friend who had a significant influence on his work.
1920 - 2012 (92 years)
George Armitage Miller was an American psychologist who was one of the founders of cognitive psychology, and more broadly, of cognitive science. He also contributed to the birth of psycholinguistics. Miller wrote several books and directed the development of WordNet, an online word-linkage database usable by computer programs. He authored the paper, "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two," in which he observed that many different experimental findings considered together reveal the presence of an average limit of seven for human short-term memory capacity. This paper is frequently cited
1886 - 1969 (83 years)
Sir Frederic Charles Bartlett FRS was a British psychologist and the first professor of experimental psychology at the University of Cambridge. He was one of the forerunners of cognitive psychology as well as cultural psychology. Bartlett considered most of his own work on cognitive psychology to be a study in social psychology, but he was also interested in anthropology, moral science, philosophy, and sociology. Bartlett proudly referred to himself as "a Cambridge psychologist" because while he was at the University of Cambridge, settling for one type of psychology was not an option.
1850 - 1909 (59 years)
Hermann Ebbinghaus was a German psychologist who pioneered the experimental study of memory, and is known for his discovery of the forgetting curve and the spacing effect. He was also the first person to describe the learning curve. He was the father of the neo-Kantian philosopher Julius Ebbinghaus.
1919 - 1989 (70 years)
Leon Festinger was an American social psychologist, perhaps best known for cognitive dissonance and social comparison theory. His theories and research are credited with renouncing the previously dominant behaviorist view of social psychology by demonstrating the inadequacy of stimulus-response conditioning accounts of human behavior. Festinger is also credited with advancing the use of laboratory experimentation in social psychology, although he simultaneously stressed the importance of studying real-life situations, a principle he perhaps most famously practiced when personally infiltrating
1857 - 1911 (54 years)
Alfred Binet , born Alfredo Binetti, was a French psychologist who invented the first practical IQ test, the Binet–Simon test. In 1904, the French Ministry of Education asked psychologist Alfred Binet to devise a method that would determine which students did not learn effectively from regular classroom instruction so they could be given remedial work. Along with his collaborator Théodore Simon, Binet published revisions of his test in 1908 and 1911, the last of which appeared just before his death.
1822 - 1911 (89 years)
Sir Francis Galton, FRS FRAI , was an English Victorian era polymath: a statistician, sociologist, psychologist, anthropologist, tropical explorer, geographer, inventor, meteorologist, proto-geneticist, psychometrician and a proponent of social Darwinism, eugenics and scientific racism. He was knighted in 1909.
1863 - 1944 (81 years)
Joseph Jastrow was a Polish-born American psychologist, noted for inventions in experimental psychology, design of experiments, and psychophysics. He also worked on the phenomena of optical illusions, and a number of well-known optical illusions were either discovered or popularized in his work. Jastrow believed that everyone had their own, often incorrect, preconceptions about psychology. One of his goals was to use the scientific method to identify truth from error, and educate the layperson, which he did through speaking tours, popular print media, and radio.
1931 - Present (90 years)
Stanislav Grof , also known as Stan Grof, is a Czech-born psychiatrist who has been living in the United States from the 1960s. Grof is one of the principal developers of transpersonal psychology and research into the use of non-ordinary states of consciousness for purposes of exploring, healing, and obtaining growth and insights into the human psyche. Grof received the VISION 97 award granted by the Foundation of Dagmar and Václav Havel in Prague on October 5, 2007. On the other hand, Grof has been criticized for furthering nonscientific psychology in the Czech republic. He is the only person...
1905 - 1997 (92 years)
Viktor Emil Frankl was an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, author, and Holocaust survivor.He was the founder of logotherapy, a school of psychotherapy which describes a search for a life meaning as the central human motivational force. Logotherapy is part of existential and humanistic psychology theories.
1942 - Present (79 years)
Currently appointed as the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University (and co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies) Daniel Dennett is a philosopher concerned with questions of the mind and cognitive science, and is colloquially known as one of the “Four Horsemen of New Atheism.” As an undergraduate, Dennett studied at Wesleyan University and Harvard University before earning his PhD in philosophy at Oxford University in 1965.
1879 - 1958 (79 years)
Alfred Ernest Jones was a Welsh neurologist and psychoanalyst. A lifelong friend and colleague of Sigmund Freud from their first meeting in 1908, he became his official biographer. Jones was the first English-speaking practitioner of psychoanalysis and became its leading exponent in the English-speaking world. As President of both the International Psychoanalytical Association and the British Psycho-Analytical Society in the 1920s and 1930s, Jones exercised a formative influence in the establishment of their organisations, institutions and publications.
1916 - 1997 (81 years)
Hans Jürgen Eysenck was a German-born British psychologist who spent his professional career in Great Britain. He is best remembered for his work on intelligence and personality, although he worked on other issues in psychology. At the time of his death, Eysenck was the living psychologist most frequently cited in the peer-reviewed scientific journal literature. A 2019 study found him to be the third most controversial of 55 intelligence researchers.
1848 - 1936 (88 years)
Carl Stumpf was a German philosopher and psychologist. He studied with Franz Brentano at the University of Würzburg before receiving his doctorate at the University of Göttingen in 1868. He also tutored the modernist literature writer Robert Musil at the University of Berlin, and worked with Hermann Lotze, who is famous for his work in perception, at Göttingen. Stumpf is known for his work on the psychology of tones. He had an important influence on his students Wolfgang Köhler and Kurt Koffka who were instrumental in the founding of Gestalt psychology as well as Kurt Lewin, who was also a pa
1938 - Present (83 years)
Eleanor Rosch currently holds the title of Professor Emerita at the . Previously, she also taught at Brown University and . Rosch completed her undergraduate studies at in Philosophy. Rosch took a short break from academia to work as a social worker for several years, before eventually earning her Ph.D. in psychology from .
1928 - 2012 (84 years)
Ulric Richard Gustav Neisser was a German-American psychologist and member of the US National Academy of Sciences. He has been referred to as the "father of cognitive psychology". Neisser researched and wrote about perception and memory. He posited that a person's mental processes could be measured and subsequently analyzed. In 1967, Neisser published Cognitive Psychology, which he later said was considered an attack on behaviorist psychological paradigms. Cognitive Psychology brought Neisser instant fame and recognition in the field of psychology. While Cognitive Psychology was considered un
1859 - 1947 (88 years)
Pierre Marie Félix Janet was a pioneering French psychologist, physician, philosopher, and psychotherapist in the field of dissociation and traumatic memory.He is ranked alongside William James and Wilhelm Wundt as one of the founding fathers of psychology.
1902 - 1977 (75 years)
Alexander Romanovich Luria was a Soviet Russian neuropsychologist, often credited as a father of modern neuropsychological assessment. He developed an extensive and original battery of neuropsychological tests during his clinical work with brain-injured victims of World War II, which are still used in various forms. He made an in-depth analysis of the functioning of various brain regions and integrative processes of the brain in general. Luria's magnum opus, Higher Cortical Functions in Man , is a much-used psychological textbook which has been translated into many languages and which he supp...
1954 - Present (67 years)
Cognitive scientist, linguist, and author, Steven Pinker currently holds the title of Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. Previously, Pinker taught at Stanford University at MIT. Pinker earned his bachelor’s in psychology from McGill University in 1976, and his Ph.D. in experimental psychology in 1979 at Harvard.
1874 - 1949 (75 years)
Edward Lee Thorndike was an American psychologist who spent nearly his entire career at Teachers College, Columbia University. His work on comparative psychology and the learning process led to the theory of connectionism and helped lay the scientific foundation for educational psychology. He also worked on solving industrial problems, such as employee exams and testing. He was a member of the board of the Psychological Corporation and served as president of the American Psychological Association in 1912. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Thorndike as the ninth-
1963 - Present (58 years)
Jonathan David Haidt currently holds the title of Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University. Previously, Haidt has held positions at Princeton University, and the University of Virginia. Additionally Haidt is the co-founder of the non-profit group Heterodox Academy. In 1985, Haidt earned his BA in philosophy from Yale University, and completed his Ph.D. in psychology in 1992 at the University of Pennsylvania.
Stay informed! Get the latest Academic Influence news, information, and rankings with our upcoming newsletter.