On This Day … 19 January

People (Deaths)

  • 1987 – Lawrence Kohlberg, American psychologist and academic (b. 1927).

Lawrence Kohlberg

Lawrence Kohlberg (25 October 1927 to 19 January 1987) was an American psychologist best known for his theory of stages of moral development.

He served as a professor in the Psychology Department at the University of Chicago and at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University. Even though it was considered unusual in his era, he decided to study the topic of moral judgment, extending Jean Piaget’s account of children’s moral development from twenty-five years earlier. In fact, it took Kohlberg five years before he was able to publish an article based on his views. Kohlberg’s work reflected and extended not only Piaget’s findings but also the theories of philosophers George Herbert Mead and James Mark Baldwin. At the same time he was creating a new field within psychology: “moral development”.

In an empirical study using six criteria, such as citations and recognition, Kohlberg was found to be the 30th most eminent psychologist of the 20th century.

Kohlberg’s first academic appointment was at Yale University, as an assistant professor of psychology, 1958-1961. In 1955 while beginning his dissertation, he had married Lucille Stigberg, and the couple had two sons, David and Steven. Kohlberg spent a year at the Centre for Advanced Study in the Behavioural Sciences, in Palo Alto, California, 1961-1962, and then joined the Psychology Department of the University of Chicago as assistant, then associate professor of psychology and human development, 1962-1967. He held a visiting appointment at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, 1967-1968, and then was appointed Professor of Education and Social Psychology there, beginning 1968, where he remained until his death.

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