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Urie Bronfenbrenner : biography

29 April 1917 - 25 September 2005

Urie Bronfenbrenner (April 29, 1917 – September 25, 2005) was a Russian American psychologist, known for developing his Ecological Systems Theory, and as a co-founder of the Head Start program in the United States for disadvantaged pre-school children.


Urie Bronfenbrenner was born on April 29, 1917 in Moscow, Russia, as the son of Dr. Alexander Bronfenbrenner and Eugenie Kamenetski Bronfenbrenner. When Urie was 6, his family moved to the United States. After a brief stay in Pittsburgh, they settled in Letchworth Village, the home of the New York State Institution for the Mentally Retarded, where his father worked as a clinical pathologist and research director.

After his graduation from Haverstraw High School, Bronfenbrenner attended Cornell University, where he completed a double major in psychology and music in 1938. He went on to graduate work in developmental psychology, completing an M.A. at Harvard University, followed by a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1942. Twenty-four hours after receiving his doctorate he was inducted into the Army, where he served as a psycholothe U.S. Army Medical Corps.

Immediately after World War II, Bronfenbrenner worked briefly as Assistant Chief Clinical Psychologist for Administration and Research for the Veterans' Administration, before beginning his work as Assistant Professor in Psychology at the University of Michigan. In 1948, he accepted a professorship in Human Development, Family Studies, and Psychology at Cornell University. In the late 1960s to early 1970s, Bronfenbrenner served as a faculty-elected member of Cornell's Board of Trustees.

With his wife, Liese, Urie Bronfenbrenner had six children. At the time of his death, Bronfenbrenner was the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Human Development and of Psychology in the Cornell University College of Human Ecology. Bronfenbrenner died at his home in Ithaca, New York, on September 25, 2005, due to complications from diabetes at the age of 88.


  • 1970. Two Worlds of Childhood: US and USSR. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-21238-9
  • 1973. Influencing Human Development. Holt, R & W. ISBN 0-03-089176-0
  • 1975. Influences on Human Development. Holt, R & W. ISBN 0-03-089413-1
  • 1979. The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-22457-4
  • 1996. The State of Americans: This Generation and the Next. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-684-82336-5. Lony Tunes
  • 2004. Making Human Beings Human: Bioecological Perspectives on Human Development. Sage Publications. ISBN 0-7619-2712-3


Ecological Systems Theory

Urie Bronfenbrenner is generally regarded as one of the world's leading scholars to focus on the interplay between research and policy on child development. Bronfenbrenner suggests child development research is better informed when institutional policies encourage studies within natural settings and theory finds greater practical application when contextually relevant.Bronfenbrenner, U. (1974). Developmental research, public policy, and the ecology of childhood (1974). Child Development, 45, 1-5. This perspective is well defined by Bronfenbrenner, who states, "...basic science needs public policy even more than public policy needs basic science" (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, p. 8, italics in original).Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. It is from this vantage point that Bronfenbrenner conceives his primary contribution, Ecological Systems Theory, in which he delineates four types of nested systems. He calls these:

  • the microsystem (such as the family or classroom);
  • the mesosystem (which is two microsystems in interaction);
  • the exosystem (external environments which indirectly influence development, e.g., parental workplace);
  • and the macrosystem (the larger socio-cultural context).

He later adds a fifth system, called the Chronosystem (the evolution of the four other systems over time).


  • The James McKeen Catell Award from the American Psychological Society
  • The American Psychological Association renamed its "Lifetime Contribution to Developmental Psychology in the Service of Science and Society" as "The Bronfenbrenner Award."
  • Chair, 1970 White House Conference on Children
Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine