Historic Humanist Series

B. F. Skinner (1904-1990)

AHA Humanist of the Year 1972

March 1997

Burrhus Frederick Skinner was born in 1904. He studied English and Classics at Hamilton College where he received an A.B. in 1926. He entered the graduate program in psychology at Harvard, earning his Ph.D. in 1936. His dissertation, regarded as a classic of its time, sowed the seeds of the theoretical position argued that all behavior could be explained by examining the stimuli that bring it about.

Skinner is considered by many to be the most important figure in twentieth-century psychology. Throughout his career he has insisted that psychology be a scientific, empirically driven discipline, devoted to the collection of massive numbers of observations of behaviors and the stimuli that bring them about.

Skinner died August 18, 1990, after a long battle with leukemia. He continued to write and work until just before his death. In fact, he was given a lifetime achievement award by the American Psychological Association and delivered a 15 minute address concerning his work only a few days before he died.