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Laurence J. Peter

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Laurence J. Peter
Peter in 1975
Laurence Johnston Peter

(1919-09-16)September 16, 1919
DiedJanuary 12, 1990(1990-01-12) (aged 70)
Alma materWestern Washington State College
Occupation(s)Educator, psychologist, writer
Known forPeter principle
SpouseIrene Peter

Laurence Johnston Peter (September 16, 1919 – January 12, 1990) was a Canadian educator and "hierarchiologist" who is best known to the general public for the formulation of the Peter principle.


Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Peter was the grandson of William Herbert Steves, the founder of Steveston, British Columbia. Peter began his career as a teacher in Vancouver in 1941, and received the degree of Doctor of Education from Washington State University in Pullman in 1963.[1]

In 1966, Peter moved to California, where he became an Associate Professor of Education, Director of the Evelyn Frieden Centre for Prescriptive Teaching, and Coordinator of Programs for Emotionally Disturbed Children at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles.

He became widely known in 1969 upon the publication of The Peter Principle – co-authored by Raymond Hull, also from Vancouver – in which he states: "In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence... [I]n time every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties... Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence." The Peter principle became one of the most profound principles of management from USC; it is a heavily quoted principle at its Marshall School of Business.[citation needed]

Another notable quotation of his is that the "noblest of all dogs is the hot dog; it feeds the hand that bites it."[2]

From 1985 to his death in 1990, Peter attended and was involved in management of the Kinetic Sculpture Race in Humboldt County, California. He proposed an award for the race titled "The Golden Dinosaur Award", which has been handed out every year since to the first sculptural machine to utterly break down immediately after the start.

At age 70, Peter died of complications from a stroke at his home in Palos Verdes Estates, California.[3]



  1. ^ Flynn, Dan (November 8, 1980). "Peter of the incompetency principle speaks of presidents, now and soon". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). p. 2B.
  2. ^ Schott, Ben (2008). "March 28". Schott's Miscellany Calendar 2009. New York: Workman Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0761149408.
  3. ^ Barron, James (January 15, 1990). "Laurence J. Peter Is Dead at 70; His 'Principle' Satirized Business". The New York Times.

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