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The Man Who Shocked the World


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The Man Who Shocked The World : The Life And Legacy Of Stanley Milgram

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The Man Who Shocked The World : The Life And Legacy Of Stanley Milgram

About the Author

Thomas Blass, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland. www.stanleymilgram.com


Social psychologist Blass (Univ. of Maryland, Baltimore) presents this first biography of his prominent forbear, Stanley Milgram (1933-84), whose ingenious, controversial research demonstrated that people can abandon their own moral judgment when carrying out the orders of an authority figure. Vividly portrayed here, these obedience studies address the Holocaust, war crimes, and the "sheep" mentality, which are still timely and relevant issues. Though his obedience research made him famous, Milgram's career path was bumpy, taking him from Yale to Harvard to CUNY, where he taught from 1967 until his fatal heart attack at 51. Blass acknowledges Milgram's weakness as a theoretician but argues persuasively that he was a genius. He originated the "six degrees of separation" idea, conducted other imaginative research, and excelled as a teacher, writer, and filmmaker. Through contacts with Milgram's colleagues, students, friends, and family, Blass portrays a warm family man, brimming with curiosity and creativity, who was also quirky and sometimes harsh with his students. Among the best biographies of psychologists, this book illuminates research with enough depth and clarity to suit historians, social scientists, and general readers. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries. E. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ. Sch. of Medicine, Washington, DC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Social psychologist Stanley Milgram achieved a precocious fame in the early 1960s with his controversial "obedience experiments": subjects posing as "teachers" willingly gave what they believed were powerful electric shocks to innocent "learners" simply because a man in a lab coat told them to. For better and worse, as Blass shows in this unsatisfyingly superficial portrait, the experiments overshadowed the rest of Milgram's career; his pioneering research on the "six degrees of separation" in social networks and studies in urban psychology never achieved the same ?clat. As Blass shows, the simultaneous revulsion and fascination the obedience research elicited probably cost Milgram tenure at Harvard a loss that this superachiever may never have gotten over and other professional honors. So the downward arc of Milgram's life (ending with his premature death at 51 in 1984) leaves Blass with a tough narrative task, which he doesn't negotiate well. Blass, a social psychologist and the leading authority on Milgram, does a workmanlike job of describing Milgram's research and its significance, but he neglects the man's interior life almost entirely. Milgram's family life is depicted episodically, his relations with wife and children unexplored, and Blass mentions Milgram's use of cocaine and other drugs almost as an aside before returning hurriedly to more pleasant matters. Milgram's genius and wit are apparent, but the dark side of a man described by his own brother as arrogant and by Blass himself as dictatorial and mercurial is never explored. Readers are left wondering who this man really was who devised the most fascinating, disturbing and devilish social psychology experiment in history. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

BBC Focus magazine "Milgram's notorious study forms the centrepiece of this outstanding biography - and rightly so, given its continued importance in understanding such horrors as the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. But as author Thomas Blass makes clear, Milgram pioneered other major areas of research, including the famous 'Small World' effect...Blass does a fine job of weaving together Milgram's life and science, revealing a portrait of a genius who, ironically enough, had real problems with authority."

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