Murray, Henry A. (Henry Alexander), 1893-1988

Alternative names
Birth 1893-05-13
Death 1988-06-23

Biographical notes:

Henry A. Murray (1893-1988) American psychologist and Harvard professor, was a pioneer in the development of personality theory. He was professor of Clinical Psychology at Harvard from 1927 until his retirement in 1962. He was also a central figure in the Department of Social Relations, which existed from 1946 to 1972, and a notable member of the Melville Society.

From the description of Papers of Henry A. Murray, 1925-1988 (inclusive). (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 76977365

Murray consulted about doctors for both Van Wyck and Kenyon Brooks at various times.

From the description of Correspondence to Van Wyck Brooks, [Between 1915 and 1963]. (University of Pennsylvania Library). WorldCat record id: 182621163

Correspondence to Lewis Mumford from Henry Alexander Murray and his wife, Nina Murray.

From the description of Letters, 1928-1979, n.d., to Lewis Mumford. (University of Pennsylvania Library). WorldCat record id: 155873228

Henry A. Murray (1893-1988) American psychologist and Harvard professor, was a pioneer in the development of personality theory.

Henry Alexander Murray was born in New York City on May 13, 1893 and died in Cambridge, Massachusetts on June 23, 1988. He was educated at Groton and Harvard College where he concentrated in history and graduated in 1915. He married Josephine Rantoul of Boston in 1916. She joined him in New York where he completed his M.A. in biology and M.D. at Columbia Medical School. Murray received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Cambridge University in 1927 and accepted an assistantship to Morton Prince at the Harvard Psychological Clinic. Murray became interested in psychology through reading Carl G. Jung's Psychological Types in 1923 and meeting Jung for three weeks in Switzerland in 1925. His interest was spurred on by his acquaintance with Christiana Drummond Morgan, an artist who shared his fascination with Jung, the unconscious and the writings of Herman Melville. This passionate relationship continued in balance with his marriage throughout his life.

At the Harvard Psychological Clinic Murray learned to practice psychoanalysis under the supervision of Hanns Sachs. He headed up a research program which published Explorations in Personality, (Murray ed., et. al.), 1938. In 1938 he was asked by the U.S. Government to put together a psychological profile on Adolph Hitler. During the second World War he served the U.S. Army by helping the forerunner of the CIA assess the psychological fitness of its agents. Murray became a tenured lecturer at Harvard in 1947 and Professor of Clinical Psychology in 1951. From 1948-1952, with the help of Morgan and others, he developed the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), which could be used to assess an individual's personality and self-understanding. Murray was a central figure in the interdisciplinary Department of Social Relations. He retired from Harvard in 1962, six months after his wife's death. Murray's energy continued as he kept up his research and married Caroline "Nina" Fish, Co-Director of the Psycho-educational Clinic at Boston University's School of Education.

Murray's main interest included personology, Melville and the welfare of the world in the atomic age. In his Basic Concepts for a Psychology of Personality, ( Journal of Psychology, 15, 1936), he described personology as "the disciplined study of human nature." This included studying individual memory, thought and action and their development over time, studying the integration of a person's inner outer life, their likes, dislikes, feelings and fears, and categorizing elements which contribute to an enduring life-long disposition, both professional and vocational. Murray published several articles on Melville's life and works and drafted a biography of Melville. He was considered by the Melville Society to be one of the scholars to bring about the Melville revival in the 1920's. His connection with the Society continued into his final years. The dawning of the atomic age concerned Murray, who considered the world to be in a state of "global neurosis." He argued for a democratic world government and a radical conversion of personalities so that the world be a safer place to live. He hoped that a synthesis of universal myths, truths and wisdom could turn the situation around.

Henry A. Murray was a renegade in his field in that, despite his extensive medical and scientific background, he maintained a disdain for scientism in psychology. He saw the study of personality as the study of human lives. He was a charismatic character who attracted many followers, both students and colleagues. A biography has been written by Forrest G. Robinson entitled Love's Story Told: A Life of Henry A. Murray .

From the guide to the Papers of Henry A. Murray, 1925-1988, (Harvard University Archives)


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Ark ID:


  • Psychology, Pathological
  • Thematic Apperception Test
  • Personality
  • Personality--Longitudinal studies
  • College students--Psychology--Longitudinal studies


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  • Massachusetts--Cambridge (as recorded)