Updated on Jan 29, 2021

The Who’s Who of Psychology leaders is fairly easy to recite: Pavlov, Skinner, Jung, Maslow, Erickson, Rogers, Freud, and Piaget all easily come to mind. However, there are some important figures in the development of psychology who tend to get short shrift. Here are a few you should know:

Robert HareRobert Hare is the go-to person for understanding psychopaths. A Canadian social psychologist, he is the author of numerous clinical and general audience books on the subject.

Some of his controversial findings have included that psychopaths are not basically good people who have made bad choices or suffered early trauma. There are, says Hare, fundamentally different brain differences in psychopaths. His groundbreaking work lies in being able to identify psychopaths, though unfortunately, not on how to cure them.

Helen Thompson WoolleyHelen Thompson Woolley was a psychologist and social reformer best known for her pioneering work in gender differences and in children’s education and welfare. Woolley debunked the concept that women’s intelligence levels were lower than men’s in he
r 1903 book, The Mental Traits of Sex.

Woolley also addressed sex-role stereotyping, because she believed that the very minor differences she found in men and women were not due to biology. Instead, those differences were due in upbringing.

Mary CalkinsMary Calkins was the first female president of the American Psychological Association in 1918 and is known for developing the right-associates model and self-psychology. She proved that memory worked better when objects were shown in pairs.

During a time when many of her associates were focused on behavior, she proposed that psychology is best viewed as a study of our conscious selves. Though she exceeded all of the requirements for graduation from Harvard, Harvard denied her graduate degree.

Leta HollingworthLeta Hollingworth, who lived at the end of the 19thcentury was well-known for two major areas of interests. She focused on identifying and addressing the needs of brilliant children, even coining the term “gifted.”

She also worked to erase the long-held view of the intellectual inferiority in women. In fact, one of her research studies proved that the menstrual cycle did not, in fact, affect women’s perceptual and motor skills or intellectual abilities.

Kenneth and Mamie ClarkKenneth and Mamie Clark were a husband and wife team of African-American psychologists who played instrumental roles in disproving the commonly held belief that there were differences in the mental abilities between African-American children and their Caucasian counterparts.

They also studied the effects of racism and segregation on the self-esteem of African-American children.

Edmund HusserlEdmund Husserl was a German psychologist who taught that experience is the source of all knowledge. Best known as the father of phenomenology—a philosophical movement designed to create conditions for the objective study of topics which are generally viewed as subjective, such as judgments, perceptions, and emotions.

Phenomenology does not study consciousness from the perspective of either clinical psychology or neuropsychology.


Sheehy, Noel. (2003) Fifty Key Thinkers in Psychology. Routledge.

Benjamin, Ludy T. Jr. (2006) A Brief History of Modern Psychology. Wiley-Blackwell.

Clark, Kenneth and Mamie. (1999) Children, Race and Power. Routledge.

Helen Bradford Thompson Woolley — A detailed paper about the life and work of Helen Bradford Thompson Woolley, written as part of an undergraduate seminar. Retrieved 7 April 2010.

Hollingworth, L. S. (1926). Gifted children: Their nature and nurture. New York: Macmillan.

Hollingworth, L. S. (1937, June). “Bright students take care of themselves”. North American Review, p. 261-273.

The Hollingworth Center for Highly Gifted Children — Retrieved 7 April 2010.

The Husserl Page — Retrieved 7 April 2010.

The Phenomenology Research Center — Retrieved 5 July 2016.

About the Author
Angie Boss RN, ASN, BA, MDiv is an award-winning health writer and author or co-author of several books, including Before Your Time: Living Well with Premature Menopause (Simon and Schuster, 2010). She received a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Sociology and Journalism from Virginia Wesleyan College and a Masters of Pastoral Counseling from Union Theological Seminary.