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Henry Alexander Murray Jr.

Becomes a physician and researcher, Discovers psychoanalysis and "depth psychology"

American biochemist, physician, and clinical and experimental psychologist who developed an integrated theory of personality.

Henry Alexander Murray, Jr. developed "personology," the integrated study of the individual from physiological, psychoanalytical, and social viewpoints. His background in medicine, biology, Freudian and Jungian psychoanalysis, and clinical and experimental psychology, as well as his work in anthropology, sociology, and

Henry Murray (Archives of the History of American Psychology. Reproduced with permission.)

literature, enabled him to develop an interdisciplinary approach to psychology. His concepts of motivation, particularly the need to achieve, had a major influence on theories of psychology. In 1961, Murray earned the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association, followed by the Gold Medal Award of the American Psychological Foundation in 1969.

Murray, born in New York City in 1893, was the second of three children of Henry Alexander Murray, Sr., and Fannie Morris Babcock. His father was a poor Scottish immigrant who became a wealthy investor. His mother, a New York socialite, was the daughter of the founder of the Guaranty Trust Company. Murray was educated at the Craegie School and, later, at Groton Academy. He entered Harvard University in 1911.

Becomes a physician and researcher

Although Murray's Harvard major was history, he entered the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York in 1915, earning his M.D. in 1919. In 1916, he married Josephine Rantoul, the daughter of a prominent Boston family and herself a graduate of Radcliffe College. The Murrays had one daughter.

At Columbia, George Draper stimulated Murray's interests in psychological factors affecting illness, and he stayed on at Columbia to earn an M.A. in biology in 1920. Returning to Harvard, Murray went to work with L.J. Henderson, applying the Henderson-Hasselbach equation to the acidity of the blood. Between 1919 and 1923, Murray published 10 papers on his physiological research.

Following two years as a surgical intern at Presbyterian Hospital in New York, Murray was awarded a research fellowship at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York. He studied the development of chicken embryos, publishing 10 papers in that field, while simultaneously working towards his Ph.D. in bio-chemistry from Cambridge University in England.

Discovers psychoanalysis and "depth psychology"

In 1925, Murray first met the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, and the two became lifelong friends. With his discovery of the writings of Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick, Murray began to develop his theory of personality, using Melville as a case study. Although never published, Murray's biography of Melville had a major influence on the scholarship of the day, and Murray's published articles and book chapters introduced the application of Jung's "depth psychology" to literary criticism. At about this time, Murray began his relationship with Christiana Morgan, who remained his lover and coworker until her suicide in 1967.

After earning his Ph.D. in 1927, Murray became an instructor at Harvard under Morton Prince, a psychopathologist who had founded the Harvard Psychological Clinic. Following Prince's death in 1929, Murray became director of the clinic, despite the fact that he had never taken a psychology course. Together with the neuropsychiatrist Stanley Cobb, Murray moved the focus of the clinic from experimental research in hypnosis and multiple personality to Freudian and Jungian psychoanalysis. He also introduced these subjects into the Harvard curriculum. Murray pursued his study of personality or "personology." At a time when American experimental psychologists studied rat behavior, Murray and his interdisciplinary research team studied single individuals on a variety of levels. With his staff, Murray published Explorations in Personality: A Clinical Study of Fifty Men of College Age in 1938. For decades, this remained the principle text for personality theory. With Morgan, Murray developed the Thematic Apperception Test, in which the subject is asked to tell stories about a series of pictures. This test remains an important tool in clinical psychology. Murray became an assistant professor at Harvard in 1929, associate professor in 1937, and professor of clinical psychology in 1948.

Murray served in the Army from 1943 until 1948, selecting personnel for the Office of Strategic Services (which later became the Central Intelligence Agency) and training agents in the United States and abroad. He was awarded the Legion of Merit by the War Department in 1946.

Further develops his theory of "personology"

After his discharge from the Army as a lieutenant colonel, Murray joined Gordon Allport in the new Department of Social Relations at Harvard. There his research interests broadened further. With Clyde Kluckhohn, he began studying personality in society and investigated personality from the viewpoint of the dyadic interaction—the idea that a relationship between two people could be viewed as a single system with equal input from both partners. He also studied the role of mythology in personality and in society. Murray was best known, however, for his development of a human motivational system of social needs. He described behavior as a function of the interaction of individual needs, such as a need for achievement or a need for affiliation, and the "press" of the environment.

Interestingly, Ted Kaczynski, the serial bomber who killed and injured several people with mail bombs, was a participant in one of Murray's psychological experiments when he was a Harvard undergraduate. The study had to do with identifying men who would not break under pressure.

Murray held numerous honorary doctorates and was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He retired in 1962 as a professor emeritus, the same year that his wife died. In 1969 he married Caroline Chandler Fish and became step-father to her five children. Murray died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1988, at the age of 95. In his memory, Radcliffe College established the Henry A. Murray Research Center for the Study of Lives.

Margaret Alic

Further Reading

Douglas, Claire. Translate This Darkness: The Life of Christiana Morgan, the Veiled Woman in Jung's Circle. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997.

Nordby, Vernon J. and Calvin S. Hall. A Guide to Psychologists and Their Concepts. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman and Company, 1974.

Robinson, Forrest G. Love's Story Told: A Life of Henry A. Murray. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992.

Schneidman, Edwin S., ed. Endeavors in Psychology: Selections from the Personology of Henry A. Murray. New York: Harper & Row, 1981.

Additional topics

Psychology EncyclopediaFamous Psychologists & Scientists