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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dr. Laurence Johnston Peter (September 16, 1919 - January 12, 1990) was an 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 1941. He received the degree of Doctor of Education from Washington State University in 1963.

In 1964, 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 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.

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, Dr. 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.


  • The Peter Pyramid or will we ever get the point? (1986)
  • Why things go wrong
  • Peter's Almanac
  • Peter's People
  • Peter's Quotations (previously under the title 5,000 Gems of Wit & Wisdom (originally entitled Quotations for Our Time))
  • The Peter Plan
  • Individual Instruction
  • Classroom Instruction
  • Therapeutic Instruction
  • Teacher Education
  • The Peter Prescription
  • The Peter Principle (with Raymond Hull) (1968)
  • The Laughter Prescription (1982)
  • Prescriptive Teaching


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


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Dr. Laurence J. Peter (1919-09-161990-01-12) was an educator and management theorist best known for having formulated the Peter Principle.


  • In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.
    • The Peter Principle (1968), ch. 1
    • Statement of the Peter Principle
  • Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.
    • Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Time (1977) ISBN 0-688-03217-6, p. 83 hiii(: im tiyee. :p
  • Television has changed the American child from an irresistible force into an immovable object.
    • Peter's Quotations, p. 324
  • When you see yourself quoted in print and you're sorry you said it, it suddenly becomes a misquotation.
    • Peter's Quotations, p. 418
  • The only valid rule about the proper length of a statement is that it achieve its purpose effectively.
    • Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Time, Introduction, p. 10
  • The habitually punctual make all their mistakes right on time.
    • Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Time, p. 181


  • Cleaning anything involves making something else dirty, but anything can get dirty without something else getting clean.
  • Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise.
    • Ascribed by The Oxford Dictionary of Medical Quotations to Dr. Gareth Beynon (b. 1940), the quote has also been widely attributed to William Scholl, B. J. Palmer, Laurence Peter and Ted Turner
  • In spite of warnings, nothing much happens until the status quo becomes more painful than change.
  • Marriage is a romance in which the hero dies in the first chapter.
  • The hardest thing in life is to learn which bridge to cross and which to burn.
  • The noblest dog is the hot dog. It feeds the hand that bites it.
  • Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to the garage makes you a car.

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