Henri Tajfel biography project

Biographical notes

Henri Tajfel (1919-1982) was one of the most influential social psychologists of the 20th Century. Born in Poland to Jewish parents, he was studying in France when World War II broke out. This stroke of fortune saved his life – most of the rest of his family were killed in the Holocaust – and led to him passing the war as a French soldier in German prisoner-of-war camps. After the war, he worked in a series of homes for Jewish children in France and Belgium, and then in Germany in a rehabilitation centre for refugees. He emigrated to Britain in 1951 to recommence his higher education in Psychology (at Birkbeck College). He went on to hold academic positions in three UK universities (Durham, Oxford and Bristol) and several visiting positions abroad.

 In his relatively short academic career – just 28 years from graduation to untimely death –  he had an enormous impact on social science, both in terms of his scientific contribution to our understanding of social perception, social identity and intergroup relations, and in terms of a legacy to future generations in the form of a professional association for European social psychologists and the application of his ideas to a wide range of contemporary social problems.