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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 …

Gender designations here are based off data sourced from Wikidata.

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List of the most influential people in Psychology, for the years 4000 BC – 2020

Sigmund Freud
# 1
Sigmund Freud

1856 - 1939 (83 years)

#8 person's overall influence

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.

William James
# 2
William James

1842 - 1910 (68 years)

#23 person's overall influence

William James was an American philosopher 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".

Carl Jung
# 3
Carl Jung

1875 - 1961 (86 years)

#78 person's overall influence

Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. Jung's work was influential in the fields of psychiatry, anthropology, archaeology, literature, philosophy, 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.

Wilhelm Wundt
# 4
Wilhelm Wundt

1832 - 1920 (88 years)

#364 person's overall influence

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

Jean Piaget
# 5
Jean Piaget

1896 - 1980 (84 years)

#261 person's overall influence

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".

Abraham Maslow
# 6
Abraham Maslow

1908 - 1970 (62 years)

#648 person's overall influence

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 Alliant International University, 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 Ma...

James McKeen Cattell
# 7
James McKeen Cattell

1860 - 1944 (84 years)

#1182 person's overall influence

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 Society for Science & the Public , from 1921–1944.

G. Stanley Hall
# 8
G. Stanley Hall

1844 - 1924 (80 years)

#827 person's overall influence

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.

John Dewey
# 9
John Dewey

1859 - 1952 (93 years)

#60 person's overall influence

John Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. He is regarded as one of the most prominent American scholars in the first half of the twentieth century.

Carl Rogers
# 10
Carl Rogers

1902 - 1987 (85 years)

#1295 person's overall influence

Carl Ransom Rogers was an American psychologist and among the founders of the humanistic approach to 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.

Erich Fromm
# 11
Erich Fromm

1900 - 1980 (80 years)

#792 person's overall influence

Erich Seligmann Fromm was a 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.

B. F. Skinner
# 12
B. F. Skinner

1904 - 1990 (86 years)

#517 person's overall influence

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.

Lev Vygotsky
# 13
Lev Vygotsky

1896 - 1934 (38 years)

#1033 person's overall influence

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.

Noam Chomsky
# 14
Noam Chomsky

1928 - Present (93 years)

#40 person's overall influence

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.

Martin Seligman
# 15
Martin Seligman

1942 - Present (79 years)

#1200 person's overall influence

Martin Seligman currently holds the title of Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Previously, he taught at Cornell University, and was the president of the American Psychological Association. Seligman earned his bachelor’s in philosophy at Princeton University in 1964, and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1967.

Steven Pinker
# 16
Steven Pinker

1954 - Present (67 years)

#183 person's overall influence

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.

Karen Horney
# 17
Karen Horney

1885 - 1952 (67 years)

#2023 person's overall influence

Karen Horney was a German psychoanalyst who practiced in the United States during her later career. Her theories questioned some traditional Freudian views. This was particularly true of her theories of sexuality and of the instinct orientation of psychoanalysis. She is credited with founding feminist psychology in response to Freud's theory of penis envy. She disagreed with Freud about inherent differences in the psychology of men and women, and she traced such differences to society and culture rather than biology. As such, she is often classified as neo-Freudian.

Hugo Münsterberg
# 18
Hugo Münsterberg

1863 - 1916 (53 years)

#3096 person's overall influence

Hugo Münsterberg was a German-American psychologist. He was one of the pioneers in applied psychology, extending his research and theories to industrial/organizational , legal, medical, clinical, educational and business settings. Münsterberg encountered immense turmoil with the outbreak of the First World War. Torn between his loyalty to the United States and his homeland, he often defended Germany's actions, attracting highly contrasting reactions.

Kurt Lewin
# 19
Kurt Lewin

1890 - 1947 (57 years)

#1366 person's overall influence

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 were his major offerings to the field of communication.

Pierre Janet
# 20
Pierre Janet

1859 - 1947 (88 years)

#2556 person's overall influence

Pierre Marie Félix Janet was a pioneering French psychologist, physician, philosopher, and psychotherapist in the field of dissociation and traumatic memory.

Erik Erikson
# 21
Erik Erikson

1902 - 1994 (92 years)

#1311 person's overall influence

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.

Francis Galton
# 22
Francis Galton

1822 - 1911 (89 years)

#219 person's overall influence

Sir Francis Galton, FRS , was an English Victorian era statistician, polymath, sociologist, psychologist, anthropologist, eugenicist, tropical explorer, geographer, inventor, meteorologist, proto-geneticist, and psychometrician. He was knighted in 1909.

Anna Freud
# 23
Anna Freud

1895 - 1982 (87 years)

#1744 person's overall influence

Anna Freud was an Austrian-British psychoanalyst. 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 Melanie Klein, she may be considered the founder of psychoanalytic child psychology.

Hans Eysenck
# 24
Hans Eysenck

1916 - 1997 (81 years)

#1533 person's overall influence

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 within 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.

Rollo May
# 25
Rollo May

1909 - 1994 (85 years)

#3487 person's overall influence

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.

Melanie Klein
# 26
Melanie Klein

1882 - 1960 (78 years)

#1986 person's overall influence

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...

Lightner Witmer
# 27
Lightner Witmer

1867 - 1956 (89 years)

#4115 person's overall influence

Lightner Witmer was an American psychologist. He introduced the term "clinical psychology" and is often credited with founding the field that it describes. Witmer created the world's first "psychological clinic" at the University of Pennsylvania in 1896, including the first journal of clinical psychology and the first clinical hospital school in 1907.

Jacques Lacan
# 28
Jacques Lacan

1901 - 1981 (80 years)

#366 person's overall influence

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 influenced many leading French intellectuals in the 1960s and the 1970s, especially those associated with post-structuralism. His ideas had a significant impact on post-structuralism, critical theory, linguistics, 20th-century French philosophy, film theory, and clinical psychoanalysis.

Otto Rank
# 29
Otto Rank

1884 - 1939 (55 years)

#1962 person's overall influence

Otto Rank was an Austrian psychoanalyst, writer, and teacher. 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.

Viktor Frankl
# 30
Viktor Frankl

1905 - 1997 (92 years)

#2430 person's overall influence

Viktor Emil Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist. A Holocaust survivor, he was the founder of logotherapy - a meaning-centered school of psychotherapy, considered the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy - following the theories developed by Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler. Logotherapy is part of existential and humanistic psychology theories. He is the author of over 39 books; he is most noted for his best-selling book Man's Search for Meaning based on his experiences in various Nazi concentration camps.

Gordon Allport
# 31
Gordon Allport

1897 - 1967 (70 years)

#2903 person's overall influence

Gordon Willard Allport was an American psychologist. Allport was one of the first psychologists to focus on the study of the personality, and is often referred to as one of the founding figures of personality psychology. He contributed to the formation of values scales and rejected both a psychoanalytic approach to personality, which he thought often was too deeply interpretive, and a behavioral approach, which he thought did not provide deep enough interpretations from their data. Instead of these popular approaches, he developed an eclectic theory based on traits. He emphasized the uniquene...

Joseph Jastrow
# 32
Joseph Jastrow

1863 - 1944 (81 years)

#2827 person's overall influence

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.

Max Wertheimer
# 33
Max Wertheimer

1880 - 1943 (63 years)

#2748 person's overall influence

Max Wertheimer was an Austro-Hungarian-born 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.

James Mark Baldwin
# 34
James Mark Baldwin

1861 - 1934 (73 years)

#2197 person's overall influence

James Mark Baldwin was an American philosopher and psychologist who was educated at Princeton under the supervision of Scottish philosopher James McCosh and who was one of the founders of the Department of Psychology at Princeton and the University of Toronto. He made important contributions to early psychology, psychiatry, and to the theory of evolution.

Michel Foucault
# 35
Michel Foucault

1926 - 1984 (58 years)

#26 person's overall influence

Paul-Michel Foucault was a French philosopher, historian of ideas, social theorist, and literary critic.

Albert Bandura
# 36
Albert Bandura

1925 - Present (96 years)

#2289 person's overall influence

Albert Bandura currently holds 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.

George Herbert Mead
# 37
George Herbert Mead

1863 - 1931 (68 years)

#394 person's overall influence

George Herbert Mead was an American philosopher, sociologist, and psychologist, primarily affiliated with the University of Chicago, where he was one of several distinguished pragmatistss. He is regarded as one of the founders of symbolic interactionism and of what has come to be referred to as the Chicago sociological tradition.

Johann Friedrich Herbart
# 38
Johann Friedrich Herbart

1776 - 1841 (65 years)

#2214 person's overall influence

Johann Friedrich Herbart was a German philosopher, psychologist and founder of pedagogy as an academic discipline.

Edward B. Titchener
# 39
Edward B. Titchener

1867 - 1927 (60 years)

#4078 person's overall influence

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. He created the largest doctoral program in the United States after becoming a professor at Cornell University, and his first graduate student, Margaret Floy Washburn, became the first woman to be granted a PhD in psychology .

# 40
Kurt Koffka

1886 - 1941 (55 years)

#3019 person's overall influence

Kurt Koffka was a German psychologist and professor. He was born and educated in Berlin, Germany, and later died in Northampton, Massachusetts from Coronary thrombosis. He was influenced by his maternal uncle, a biologist, to pursue science. He had many interests including visual perception, brain damage, sound localization, developmental psychology, and experimental psychology. He worked alongside Max Wertheimer and Wolfgang Köhler to develop Gestalt psychology. Koffka had several publications including "The Growth of the Mind: An Introduction to Child Psychology" and "The Principles of Ges...

Fritz Perls
# 41
Fritz Perls

1893 - 1970 (77 years)

#2648 person's overall influence

Friedrich Salomon Perls , better known as Fritz Perls, was a German-born psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and psychotherapist. Perls coined the term 'Gestalt therapy' to identify the form of psychotherapy that he developed with his wife, Laura Perls, in the 1940s and 1950s. Perls became associated with the Esalen Institute in 1964, and he lived there until 1969.

Hermann von Helmholtz
# 42
Hermann von Helmholtz

1821 - 1894 (73 years)

#389 person's overall influence

Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz was a German physicist and physician who made significant contributions in several scientific fields. The largest German association of research institutions, the Helmholtz Association, is named after him.

Alfred Binet
# 43
Alfred Binet

1857 - 1911 (54 years)

#2453 person's overall influence

Alfred Binet was a French psychologist who invented the first practical IQ test, the Binet–Simon test. In 1905, 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.

# 44
Jorge Ferrer

1968 - Present (53 years)

#4463 person's overall influence

Jorge N. Ferrer is a US-based Spanish psychologist and participatory thinker, best known for his work bridging participatory theory with transpersonal psychology, religious studies, integral education, and sexuality and intimate relationships. Ferrer is a professor of psychology at California Institute of Integral Studies , San Francisco, where he served as chair of the department of East-West Psychology.

Jerome Bruner
# 45
Jerome Bruner

1915 - 2016 (101 years)

#1893 person's overall influence

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.

Hermann Ebbinghaus
# 46
Hermann Ebbinghaus

1850 - 1909 (59 years)

#2896 person's overall influence

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.

Daniel Kahneman
# 47
Daniel Kahneman

1934 - Present (87 years)

#729 person's overall influence

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

John Bowlby
# 48
John Bowlby

1907 - 1990 (83 years)

#1873 person's overall influence

Edward John Mostyn Bowlby, CBE, FRCP, FRCPsych was a British psychologist, psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst, notable for his interest in child development and for his pioneering work in attachment theory. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Bowlby as the 49th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.

# 49
Oswald Külpe

1862 - 1915 (53 years)

#5272 person's overall influence

Oswald Külpe was a German structural psychologists of the late 19th and early 20th century. Külpe, who is lesser known than his German mentor, Wilhelm Wundt, revolutionized experimental psychology at his time. In his obituary, Aloys Fischer wrote that, “undoubtedly Külpe was the second founder of experimental psychology on German soil; for with every change of base he made it a requirement that an experimental laboratory should be provided.”

Alexander Luria
# 50
Alexander Luria

1902 - 1977 (75 years)

#4174 person's overall influence

Alexander Romanovich Luria was a 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 supplemente...