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The Man Who Shocked The World: The Life And Legacy Of Stanley Milgram Hardcover – March 16, 2004

4.7 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the early 1960s, Stanley Milgram conducted a series offamous experiments proving that average citizens would readily inflictpainful electric shocks on strangers if they were instructed orencouraged to do so by an authority figure. This biography byUniversity of Maryland professor Blass provides a valuable examinationMilgram’s work and his contributions to the field of socialpsychology. Blass discusses Milgram’s education and career choicesfrom the mid-1950s to the ’70s. He talks at length about thescientist’s training and experiences at Queens College and at Harvard,and about his teaching and research appointments at universities suchas Princeton, Yale and the City University of New York. He describesin great—at times exhausting—detail the controversialexperiments Milgram devised and conducted over the years. And heconsiders how Milgram’s research changed the way "we thinkabout…the role of moral principles in social life." Milgram’spersonal life, however, gets the short shrift in thisnarration. References to the psychologist’s use of cocaine, marijuanaand mescaline are brief and undeveloped; mentions of his wife, Sasha,and their children, Michele and Marc, seem somewhat perfunctory. Thisinattention to matters of personality may limit the book’saudience. But, as the first comprehensive biography of Milgram,Blass’s study nonetheless remains an important contribution to thefield of science history. 8 pages of b&w photos.
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Review

"A sparkling biography of Stanley Milgram....I was truly moved by this book." -- Steven Strogatz, author of Sync, and Professor of Applied Mathematics, Cornell University

"A wonderful, entertaining and demystifying portrait of the father of six degrees and small worlds." -- Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, author of Linked, and Emil T. Hofman Professor of Physics, University of Notre Dame

"Blass's intimate biography of Stanley Milgram is a tour de force....This is a biography destined to become a classic." -- Phlip G. Zimbardo, author of Shyness, and former president, American Psychological Association

"This is a major work that will help define and preserve the Milgram legacy." -- David G. Myers, Hope College, author of Social Psychology
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (March 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738203998
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738203997
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,905,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Thomas Dukich on May 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I've been a fan of Stanley Milgram's work since my psychology grad school days in the late 60's. Fortunately, I also had the pleasure of hearing him speak and the honor of meeting him. So I waited with anticipation when I learned that Thomas Blass was writing a biography on Milgram. I was hoping that I would lean more about Milgram's groundbreaking research and that I might also end up liking him as a person, although I know that's certainly not the purpose of biography.
Well, thanks to Blass's book I did learn a lot about Milgram, not all of it very pleasant. And even at that, it seems to me that Blass pulled some punches to avoid making Milgram even less attractive as a person, perhaps in deference to Milgram's wife and his children who cooperated in the writing of this biography. For example, Blass reports that Milgram delayed his departure from Paris until he found out if his French girlfriend was pregnant. Blass doesn't say whether she was or not or what happened if she in fact was. Blass frequently references Milgram's sexual appetite and conquests but avoids discussion of whether this carried over to Milgram's later life. When I met Milgram, he was in the company of a tall, beautiful young woman who was described simply as his "traveling companion".
Blass does repeatedly mention Milgram's arrogance, snobbishness, and abrasiveness but also offers up what seem to be pedestrian acts of kindness attributed to Milgram and that he was a good family man. This "on the other hand" approach by Blass is apparently intended to imply that underneath it all Milgram could be very sensitive and kind or that he was "complicated". Blass also briefly mentions Milgram's drug use as a possible explanation of his mercurial behavior.
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Format: Hardcover
Stanley Milgram was clearly a genius! His research on obedience to authority gave the world surprising insights into such phenomena as the role of ordinary people in the Nazi Holocaust. His innovative studies on the small world problem gave rise to the notion of six degrees of separation-which in recent years has been applied as a general principle in such diverse fields as physics, epidemiology and neuroscience. Whether we consider cognitive maps of cities, the lost letter method of assessing attitudes, the concept of the familiar stranger or Cyranoid communication, the mark of Milgram's research was its originality and brilliance in conceptualizing everyday events in a manner that elucidated the phenomenon, yet was never tried before.
In this beautifully written biography of Milgram by Thomas Blass, we not only get a superb overview of Milgram's work, but we also find out about Stanley Milgram-the person. By learning about his parents and his childhood we can now understand what drew his interest into Holocaust relevant research. Following his graduate career, we can gain insight into the personalities and social dynamics that existed at the Harvard Department of Social Relations and how these forces shaped Milgram's research agenda. His European travels, studies and adventures (amorous and otherwise) fill out the picture of Stanley Milgram's early interests.
Fortunately, Milgram was a prolific writer of letters to his friends that expressed his feelings at that moment. It appears that the author gained access to practically every word ever written by Milgram and through extensive interviews with Milgram's family, colleagues and students Blass compiled an even larger database of quotes and anecdotes which he appropriately shares with the reader.
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Format: Hardcover
I am not a psychologist and have absolutely no grounding in the theory or practice of psychology but something about Milgram has always fascinated me.

It was therefore with some degree of trepidation that I ordered this book. I was worried that it would be full of jargon and too "heavy" for a non psychologist to deal with. This is certainly not the case. Dr Blass writes in a style that is easy to read and the whole book is very compelling. He has an obvious affection for Milgram as well as a huge and well researched knowledge base.

Stanley Milgram conducted experiments which often revealed unpleasant aspects human nature, his work is both alarming and revealing and should be essential reading for everyone. This book provides not only an account of Milgram's life but also a great overview of his work.

I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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Format: Hardcover
Stanley Milgram is one of the most influential social psychologists of our time, who through his obedience studies, made some of the greatest and most enduring contributions to psychology. Through his controversial experiments, that "shocked the world" he enabled us to make some sense of the atrocities that occurred during the Holocaust. He made us look at our dark side, and began a world-discourse about why we blindly obey authority. That discourse continues today and can be found everywhere and in everything from academic journals to films, books, music, and even dog-training manuals. Not only is Milgram's work fascinating but the man himself was just as captivating.

In this superbly written biography of Milgram, Thomas Blass gives us an intimate look at the man behind the brilliance. Blass has meticulously researched Milgram's life and presented the reader with an honest, and not always complimentary, view of Stanley Milgram. I applaud Blass for his candid approach, and his balanced view of an extraordinary man. By revealing Milgram's darker side, Blass has cleverly demonstrated that we all share the same human foibles and weaknesses, and that ultimately the experimenter is no better and no worse than the subjects he uses in his experiments. We are all just humans.

With the current state of our world, I believe renewed discourse on the subject of blind obedience could not have come at a better time. Milgram's work is relevant to just about every aspect of our lives from workplace social dynamics to terrorism. Because of that, I recommend this book to everyone who shares a background in psychology and most certainly for those who do not. Blass's book is a marvelous introduction to Milgram's work and to the fascinating man himself.
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