Eric Lansdown Trist (September 11, 1909 – June 4, 1993) was a British scientist and leading figure in the field of organizational development (OD). He was one of the founders of the Tavistock Institute for Social Research in London.
Trist was born in 1909 in Dover, England of a Cornish father and a Scottish mother. He grew up in Dover experiencing dramatic air raids in the first world war. He went to Cambridge University - Pembroke College in 1928, where he read English Literature, graduating with first-class honours. Influenced heavily by his don I. A. Richards he became interested in Psychology, Gestalt psychology, and Psychoanalysis, and went on to read psychology under Frederic Bartlett. At that time (1932/3) Trist has said he was very interested in articles by Kurt Lewin. When Kurt Lewin (who was Jewish) left Germany as Adolf Hitler came to power, he travelled to Palestine via the USA, stopping off in England, where Trist briefly met him and showed him around Cambridge.
Trist graduated in Psychology in 1933, with a distinction, and went to Yale University in the USA and again met Lewin, who was at Cornell University and then Iowa. He visited B. F. Skinner, a key figure in Behaviourism in Boston. After witnessing some disturbing experiences during the Depression, he became politically interested for the first time, and read Karl Marx.