Laurence J. Peter

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


He was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, and began his career as a teacher in Vancouver in 1941. He received the degree of Doctor of Education from Washington State University in 1963.

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.

He became widely famous in 1968, on the publication of The Peter Principle, in which he states: "In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence ... in 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 the University of Southern California. It is a heavily quoted principle at the 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."[1]

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.


  • Prescriptive Teaching (1965)
  • The Peter Principle (with Raymond Hull, 1968)
  • The Peter Prescription (1972)
  • Competencies for Teaching: System of Accountability for Teacher Education (1972-1975) (4 volumes, 1975)
    • Vol. 1 Therapeutic Instruction
    • Vol. 2 Classroom Instruction
    • Vol. 3 Individual Instruction
    • Vol. 4 Teacher Education
  • The Peter Plan (1976)
  • Peter's Quotations, Ideas for Our Time (aka Quotations for Our Time, 1977)
  • Peter's People (1979)
  • Peter's Almanac (1982)
  • The Laughter Prescription (with comedian Bill Dana, 1982)
  • Why Things Go Wrong, or the Peter Principle Revisited (1984)
  • The Peter Pyramid or will we ever get the point? (1986)[2]


  1. As quoted in Ben Schott, Schott's Miscellany Calendar 2009 (New York: Workman Publishing Company, 2008), March 28.

External links