Birthday: May 13, 1893
Died At Age: 95
Sun Sign: Taurus
Also Known As: Henry Alexander Murray
Born Country: United States
Born in: New York City, New York
Famous as: Psychologist
Spouse/Ex-: Josephine Rantoul
father: Henry Alexander Murray Sr.
mother: Fannie Morris Babcock
children: Dr. Josephine Lee Murray, Josephine Lee Murray
Partner: Christina Morgan
Died on: June 23, 1988
place of death: Cambridge
Cause of Death: Pneumonia
City: New York City
U.S. State: New Yorkers
Founder/Co-Founder: Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute
education: University of Cambridge (1928), Harvard University, Columbia University
awards: APA Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Psychology
Who was Henry Murray?
Henry A. Murray was a renowned American psychologist who dedicated his life to unveiling the origins of life. He started out in the field of biochemistry and later decided to pursue psychology. He was inspired by the works of famous psychiatrist Carl Jung and even had private sessions with Jung, which is believed to have led him to the field of psychology. He considered conventional psychology incredibly dull, and in an era during which other academics often undermined psychological research, Henry Murray was able to revolutionize it with his unique methods. He was the co-developer of the popular Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), in which the subject is asked to invent a story after being shown a set of picture cards. He also used empirical methods and established the “longitudinal study.” In addition, he developed a branch of psychology known as “personology.” It mainly focused on studying the subject’s life history to find main themes, internal drives, and the outside factors that influenced personality formation. His methods were controversial, and he is alleged to have conducted several psychologically damaging experiments on future domestic terrorist Ted Kaczynski.
Childhood & Early Life
Henry A. Murray was born in the city of New York on May 13, 1893. He was the second child of Henry Alexander Murray Sr., a banker, and Fannie Morris Babcock. He had a poor relationship with his mother. He had two siblings.
He attended prep school at Groton, and then he went to Harvard College from 1911 to 1915, where he majored in history. At a young age, Murray suffered from stuttering and was cross-eyed. This did not deter him even a little, and he had great athletic success at Harvard.
He then went to Columbia University, where he pursued medicine. In 1919, he received an MA in biology.
He was an instructor in physiology at Harvard for about two years, and in 1928, he received his doctorate in biochemistry at Cambridge.
Murray’s interest in the field of psychology piqued in 1923. It was during this time that he started an affair with Christiana Morgan, a fellow researcher, despite being married. This led to severe psychological stress, and as a result, Murray began reading the works of Carl Jung.
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Henry A. Murray became the assistant director of the Harvard Psychological Clinic in 1927. He created the concepts of latent needs (those not openly displayed), manifest needs (which is observed in people’s actions), “press” (external influences on motivation), and “thema” (a pattern of press and need that coalesces around particular interactions).
Murray and Stanley Cobb, Bullard Professor of Neuropathology at the Medical School, collaborated and decided to introduce psychoanalysis in the Harvard curriculum. They kept it discreet and were integral in setting up the Boston Psychoanalytic Society. But both were rejected membership on political grounds.
In 1935, Murray and Christina Morgan developed the concept of “apperception”. It stated that every human’s thinking is shaped by subjective processes. This later became the core concept of the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT).
In 1937, he became the director of the Harvard Psychological Clinic. In 1938, he published a book titled “Explorations in Personality”. It was a true classic in psychology, and the book inspired many psychologists and students to tread far beyond the conventional norms of psychology.
World War II
Henry Murray left Harvard and worked as a lieutenant colonel with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II. The situation test, which was part of the TAT, was used to asses and select secret agents.
He also helped complete the “Analysis of the Personality of Adolph Hitler” in 1943. It was commissioned by Major General William “Wild Bill” Donovan, and the report was done in collaboration with famous psychoanalysts Walter C. Langer, Dr. Ernst Kris, and Dr. Bertram D. Lewin.
This report used many sources, including informants such as Hermann Rauschning, Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe, Ernst Hanfstaengl, Gregor Strasser, and Friedelinde Wagner. It paved the way for offender profiling and political psychology.
Quite notably, Murray’s report predicted Hitler’s suicide if Germany was defeated; this would eventually come true.
Harvard Human Experiments
In 1947, Henry A. Murray returned to Harvard as a chief researcher. From late 1959 to early 1962, he was responsible for conducting unethical experiments on 22 Harvard undergraduates. The experiment was aimed at measuring individual responses to extreme stress.
Among the students was future terrorist Ted Kaczynski. His criminal career is often connected to the abusive Harvard experiment that was conducted by Henry Murray.
In 1960, Murray also supervised the research on psychedelic drugs, which was initiated by Timothy Leary.
Family & Personal Life
In 1916, Henry A. Murray got married to Josephine Rantoul, and they remained together until her death in 1962. They had one daughter, who was also named Josephine, born in 1921. She later became a physician.
Apart from his family life, Murray also had an extra-marital affair with fellow researcher Christina Morgan. It was during this period that he became interested in psychology and sought the advice of Carl Jung. He asked Murray to continue with his affair and be open to his wife about it.
Death & Legacy
Henry A. Murray died on June 23, 1988, due to pneumonia. Before his death, he received the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association. He also received the Gold Medal Award for lifetime achievement from the American Psychological Foundation.