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Abraham Maslow: biography of this famous humanist psychologist

Abraham Maslow: biography of this famous humanist psychologist

June 25, 2022

Abraham Maslow is well known in the world of psychology , being a remarkable figure who promoted and created along with other authors like Carl Rogers the well-known one like humanistic psychology. This author worked various issues throughout his career, developing a holistic model that was based on growth and development based on the satisfaction of needs.

His most well-known and popular contribution is the pyramid of human needs, in which the author hierarchizes the latter according to the degree of force they have and observing that as we go on supplying the most basic and essential needs for survival, others emerge every time more complex


Apart from this pyramid, he made several contributions based on his model, investigating, among other elements, each one of the needs and the importance not only of satisfying them but also of the way of doing it, the personal self-realization, the differentiation between reality and fiction, the homeostasis and the maintenance of health and well-being, the higher processes of consciousness and human relationships. Knowing the life of this author can help to understand his thinking, which is why in this article we are going to outline a biography of Abraham Maslow .

  • Related article: "History of Psychology: authors and main theories"

Brief biography of Abraham Maslow

Abraham Maslow was born on April 1, 1908 in the New York County of Brooklyn, in the core of a Jewish family of Russian origin who emigrated to the United States. Maslow was the first of seven brothers, being the first-born of Samuel and Rose Maslow. His childhood was not particularly happy, both parents being excessively demanding with him and often vexing him.


His father saw him as stupid and disgusting, which would diminish the child's self-esteem to a great extent. As for his mother, Maslow himself indicated that did not give him love or affection during his childhood and was characterized by excessive harshness, exigency, rigidity and even cruelty towards him, to the point that he would come to hate her and even many years later to refuse to go to his funeral.

In addition to his family life, the young Maslow's childhood was marked by loneliness and social discrimination because of his origins, being a lonely child whose only refuge would be books. Since childhood Maslow he showed great intelligence and curiosity to learn , reading being one of his favorite pastimes and showing a high academic performance since its inception.

Formation and marriage

At seventeen he decided to take an interest in the legal field in order to satisfy his parents, enrolling in 1926 at the City College of New York and the Brooklyn Law School to study law and law. However, a short time later he would realize that the legal environment was not to his liking and would end up abandoning those studies.


He was transferred to Cornell University in order to study psychology , but the attendance to a brief course of introduction to the psychology on the part of Edward Titchener discouraged him of it and after the first semester he returned to the City College of New York. After that, he would transfer to the University of Wisconsin, where finally he would study psychology.

Even being a student he married against the family opinion with Bertha Goodman , one of her cousins, in 1928. She moved with her to Wisconsin the same year, so that she could study in that city. This marriage brought him the love and affection he had not had in previous eras, the author saying that his life would begin thereafter. With her I would have two daughters.

Two years later, in 1930, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin. One year later he would receive the master's degree. Also, after that, he would do the PhD at that same university, being his mentor Harry Harlow . Along with him Maslow will realize what would be his first relevant study, analyzing sexual behavior and dominance and power in primates. He would doctorate in 1934.

Work life and contributions

After finishing his studies he would start working as a teacher at the same university for a short period of time.

However, in 1935 he moved to Columbia University, where he worked as a researcher with Thorndike, as well as with Alfred Adler. This would make it visualize two of the main theoretical currents, behaviorism and psychoanalysis, appreciating the virtues and defects of each one.

In that university he would perform one at that time Controversial research on female sexuality (using for them concepts derived from psychoanalysis), discovering aspects about the relationship between dominance and sexuality and the attraction for certain characteristics based on the degree of dominance and publishing various articles on the subject.

In 1937 he returned to the University of Brooklyn, staying there until 1951 and practicing as a professor professor. I would have contact with Wertheimer (one of the main founders of the Gestalt) and the anthropologist Ruth Benedict, establishing a certain friendship and being great influences in their thinking.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Theory of Gestalt: laws and fundamental principles"

The times of the Second World War

The entry of the United States to the Second World War in 1941 was too old to enlist, not being considered fit for military service. However, this conflict moved him to investigate the causes of hate and prejudice , as well as other emotions and relationships. In 1943 he would begin to propose the existence of a hierarchy of needs in his publication "A theory of human motivation."

In 1947 Maslow suffered a heart attack and had to take a leave, moving to California with his family. After his recovery, in 1949 he would return to the University.

In 1951 he would be hired in the psychology department of Brandeis University, assuming his leadership and acting as a professor. In this university I would know the theory and the concept of self-realization of Goldstein . It would be at this stage where he would end up promoting and shaping what is also called the third force of psychology, Humanistic Psychology, and would create the famous Maslow's pyramid. In 1954 he published "Motivation and Personality", where he expanded his theory and model.

Due to his multiple contributions to psychology, in 1966 Maslow would be elected president of the American Psychological Association .

His death

As the years passed, Maslow's health would begin to wane, beginning to suffer from heart problems. In 1967 he suffered a heart attack, from which he managed to survive, but along with other health problems made him have to resign from his teaching position. After that he dedicated himself to trying to establish an ethics in the practice of humanistic psychology.

In 1970, specifically on June 8, Abraham Maslow suffered another myocardial infarction , dying at 62 years of age.

The legacy of this author is broad, being one of the main creators of the humanist current in psychology and serving as a precursor to psychologies such as positive. His theories are widely known and used in various fields, both at a clinical and business level.


Maslow's hierarchy of needs | Behavior | MCAT | Khan Academy (June 2022).


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