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Kurt Lewin

Kurt Lewin

German-american psychologist

Kurt Lewin was an influential psychologist who is today recognized as the founder of modern social psychology. His research on group dynamics, experiential learning, and action research had a tremendous influence on the growth and development of social psychology. He is also recognized for his important contributions in the areas of applied psychology and organizational psychology. In a 2002 review of some of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century, Lewin was ranked as the 18th most eminent psychologist.

Early Life

Born in Prussia to a middle-class Jewish family, Kurt Lewin moved to Berlin at the age of 15 to attend the Gymnasium. He enrolled at the University of Frieberg in 1909 to study medicine before transferring to the University of Munich to study biology. He eventually completed a doctoral degree at the University of Berlin.

He originally began his studies with an interest in behaviorism, but he later developed an interest in Gestalt psychology. He served in the German army and was later injured in combat.2 These early experiences had a major impact on the development of his field theory and later study of group dynamics.


In 1921, Kurt Lewin began lecturing on philosophy and psychology at the Psychological Institute of the University of Berlin. His popularity with students and prolific writing drew the attention of Stanford University, and he was invited to be a visiting professor in 1932. Eventually, Lewin emigrated to the U.S. and took a teaching position at the University of Iowa, where he worked until 1945.

While Lewin emphasized the importance of theory, he also believed that theories needed to have practical applications. Lewin established the Research Center for Group Dynamics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the National Training Laboratories (NTL). Lewin died of a heart attack in 1947.

Field Theory

Influenced by Gestalt psychology, Lewin developed a theory that emphasized the importance of individual personalities, interpersonal conflict, and situational variables.

Lewin's Field Theory proposed that behavior is the result of the individual and the environment. This theory had a major impact on social psychology, supporting the notion that our individual traits and the environment interact to cause behavior.

Contributions to Psychology

Kurt Lewin contributed to Gestalt psychology by expanding on gestalt theories and applying them to human behavior. He was also one of the first psychologists to systematically test human behavior, influencing experimental psychology, social psychology, and personality psychology. He was a prolific writer, publishing more than 80 articles and eight books on various psychology topics. Many of his unfinished papers were published by his colleagues after his sudden death at age 56.

Lewin is known as the father of modern social psychology because of his pioneering work that utilized scientific methods and experimentation to look at social behavior. Lewin was a seminal theorist whose enduring impact on psychology makes him one of the preeminent psychologists of the 20th century.


February 12, 1947
Died at age 56 of a heart attack.
Established research center at MIT.
Became a professor at the University of Iowa; published A Dynamic Theory of Personality.
Emigrated to the United States.
Became a lecturer at the Psychological Institute of the University of Berlin.
Awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Berlin (although he'd completed the requirements two years prior).
Joined the German army.
September 9, 1890
Kurt Lewin was born in Mogilno.


Further Resources


Erziehungsstile nach Kurt Lewin 0001


September 13, 2012

Erziehungsstile nach Kurt Lewin 0002


September 13, 2012

Kurt Lewin (Snook)


April 11, 2018

Kurt Lewin Foundation - KLA Magazin






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