Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner, a Harvard professor, cognitive research psychologist, and prolific author, is best known for his theory of multiple intelligences, first described in Frames of Mind (1983) and subsequently refined and extended in Intelligence Reframed (1999). Gardner’s work has inspired teachers, school leaders, and special educators to embrace the notion that there is more than one way to be smart.

The Emerging Theorist

Gardner was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1943,  the  son  of  refugees  from  Nazi  Germany. A studious child, he loved to read, and developed into a gifted pianist. Although he dropped formal piano instruction as an adolescent, finding the practice obligations “onerous,” he retained a lifelong passion for music that contributed to his nonunitary conception of human cognitive capacity.

Formal Inquiry

Gardner  undertook  most  of  his  formal  training and graduate work at Harvard University, where he studied with noted psychologists and pursued, during his early career, research involving normal and gifted children, as well as brain-damaged adults. He maintained a voracious multidisciplinary reading, research, and writing schedule, and admitted, in later years, to being a “happy workaholic.” A prolific writer of journal articles and books during his early career, Gardner burst onto the international scene with his sweepingly popular book, Frames of Mind (1985).

Theory Of Multiple Intelligences

Faulting earlier unitary models of intellectual ability typically reported as a single IQ score, Gardner detailed a more complex paradigm in which human intelligence comprises eight or more relatively autonomous intellectual capacities: logical-mathematical intelligence, musical intelligence, linguistic intelligence, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, spatial intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence, naturalist intelligence (added later), and possibly existential intelligence.

The theory of multiple intelligences became the guide for a multitude of school improvement efforts. Gardner and others promulgated the understanding of diverse student capacities, the need for personalized educational environments, improved interdisciplinary curricular programs, and the use of performance-based assessments. Educators have been inspired to adapt the theory and infuse its essence into school mission statements, curricula, individualized education plans, and instructional practice.

Other Contributions

Gardner has written more than 20 books on creativity, leadership, discipline, socially responsible work,  and  ethics  and  has  received  the  MacArthur Prize Fellowship, the Grawemeyer Award in Education, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Howard Gardner is the  John  H.  and  Elisabeth A.  Hobbs  Professor  of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Senior Director of Harvard Project Zero.


  1. Gardner, (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.
  2. Gardner, (1999). Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century. New York: Basic Books.
  3. Howard Gardner,