Henry A. Murray, M.D., Ph.D.

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Born in New York City, Henry A. Murray had an impressive collection of initials after his name by 1927; he earned an A.B. (with a major in history) from Harvard in 1915, an M.D. from Columbia in 1919, an M.A. in biology from Columbia in 1920, and a Ph.D. from Cambridge in 1927. Murray (1940, pp. 152–"153) reminisced about his budding fascination with the mental life of others, including his colleagues and medical patients at Columbia:

During my fourth year at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, while waiting for calls to deliver babies in Hell’s Kitchen, I completed a modest study of 25 of my classmates, in which 40 anthropometric measures were later correlated with 30 traits.

. . . Later, as an interne [sic] in a hospital, I spent more time than was considered proper for a surgeon, inquisitively seeking psychogenic factors in my patients. Whatever I succeeded in doing for them—"the dope fiend, the sword-swallower, the prostitute, the gangster—"was more than repaid when, after leaving the hospital, they took me through their haunts in the underworld. This was psychology in the rough, but at least it prepared me to recognize the similarity between downtown doings and uptown dreams.... But it was Jung’s book, Psychological Types, which... started me off in earnest toward psychology.

In 1925, Murray visited with Carl Jung in Zurich. Murray wrote that "we talked for hours, sailing down the lake and smoking before the hearth of his Faustian retreat." Murray was profoundly affected by that meeting: he said that he had experienced the unconscious and it was then that he decided to pursue depth psychology as a career.

The Harvard Psychological Clinic had been founded by Morton Prince, and it was at Prince’s invitation that Murray was hired there as an instructor. In 1937, Murray was made the director of the clinic—"one that was fast gaining a reputation for being an exciting, stimulating, innovative place to work. In 1938, Murray with collaborators published the now classic Explorations in Personality, a work that described, among other techniques, the Thematic Apperception Test.

In 1943, Murray left Harvard for a position in the Army Medical Corps to help with the war effort. He established and directed the Office of Strategic Services, an agency charged in part with selecting men for James Bond–"like tasks during the war (see OSS, Assessment of Men, 1948). In 1947, Murray returned to Harvard, where he lectured part-time and helped establish the Psychological Clinic Annex in 1949. In 1962, Murray became emeritus professor at Harvard. He earned the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association and the Gold Medal Award for lifetime achievement from the American Psychological Foundation. Murray died of pneumonia on June 23, 1988, at the age of 95.


Murray, H. A. (1940). What should psychologists do about psychoanalysis? Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 35, 150–175.

OSS Assessment Staff. (1948). Assessment of men: Selection of personnel for the Office of Strategic Service. New York: Rinehart.

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