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Biography of Abraham Maslow(1908-1970)

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Abraham Maslow

Abraham Maslow

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"The story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short." ? Abraham Maslow

Best Known For:

Birth and Death:

  • Abraham Maslow was born April 1, 1908 in Brooklyn, New York.
  • He died in California on June 8, 1970 due to a heart attack.

Early Life:

Abraham Maslow grew up in Brooklyn, New York, the first of seven children born to his Jewish parents who emigrated from Russia. Maslow later described his early childhood as unhappy and lonely, and he spent much of his time in the library immersed in books.
Eventually, Maslow went on to study law at City College of New York (CCNY) and married his first-cousin Bertha Goodman. He later switched to the University of Wisconsin where he developed an interested in psychology and found a mentor in psychologist Harry Harlow who served as his doctoral advisor. Maslow earned all three of his degrees in psychology from the University of Wisconsin: a bachelor's degree in 1930, a master's degree in 1931 and a doctorate in 1934.


Abraham Maslow began teaching at Brooklyn College in 1937 and continued to work as a member of the school's faculty until 1951. During this time, he was heavily influenced by Gestalt psychologist Max Wertheimer and anthropologist Ruth Benedict. Maslow believed that they were such exceptional people that he began to analyze and take notes on their behavior. This analysis served as the basis for his theories and research on human potential.
During the 1950s, Maslow became one of the founders and driving forces behind the school of thought known as humanistic psychology. His theories including the hierarchy of needs, self-actualization and peak experiences became fundamental subjects in the humanist movement.

Contributions to Psychology:

At a time when most psychologists focused aspects of human nature that were considered abnormal, Abraham Maslow shifted to focus to look at the positive sides of mental health. His interest in human potential, seeking peak experiences and improving mental health by seeking personal growth had a lasting influence on psychology. While Maslow?s work fell out of favor with many academic psychologists, his theories are enjoying a resurgence due to the rising interesting in positive psychology.

Selected Publications:

  • Maslow, A. (1954). Motivation and Personality. NY: Harper.
  • Maslow, A. (1962). Toward a Psychology of Being. NY: Van Nostrand.


Boeree, C. G. (1998) Abraham Maslow: 1908-1970. Found online at http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/maslow.html

DeCarvalho, R. S. (1991). The Founders of Humanistic Psychology. NY: Praeger.

Maslow, Abraham (1998). Towards a Psychology of Being. Wiley; 3 edition.

PBS. (1998). Abraham Maslow. A Science Odyssey. Found online at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/bhmasl.html

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