Born: 1895, Ohio, USA Died: 1979, Washington DC, USA Nat: American Ints: Experimental, general, personality and social, philosophical psychology, psychological study of social issues Educ: BA Yale University, 1916; MA Harvard University, 1917; PhD Columbia University, 1922 Appts & awards: Hon. DSc, City University of New York, 1975; Hon. PhD, University of Hamburg, 1976; Butler Medal, Columbia University; Richard Hodgson Fellow in Psychical Research, Harvard University; John Dewey Society Lecturer; Festschrift for Gardner Murphy APA Gold Medal; Chairman, APA Division 9; President, Eastern Psychological Association; APA President; President, Research Society for Psychical Research; American Society for Psychical Research; General Editor, Harper Psychology Series; Editor, Journal of Parapsychology, 1939-41, Sociometry, An Outline of Abnormal Psychology, Modern Library, 1929, William James and Psychical Research, 1968 (with R.O. Ballou)
In a poll of psychologists, Gardner Murphy was voted second only to Freud in his influence on their thinking. His ground-breaking books both organized the knowledge within a field and cross-fertilized it with material from what had been considered separate areas, providing new insights and directions for research.
The special quality of his work was the introduction of new ideas and his integration of them with the old, thus modifying and enriching prior thinking. An example is a series of collaborative experiments, combining psychophysics with personalizations of how perception varies with needs and attitudes. The thrust of his thinking was that each individual, though constrained by biological limitations and motivated by biological drives, will modulate responses according to past experience, self-image and the particular situation. Hunger, for example, motivates some to increased effort, others only to self-pity, others in still other ways, and there is potentiality for change.
His life encompassed two careers: psychology and parapsychology. He entered psychology because of its relevance to psychical research, and his involvement with parapsychology continued steadily, resulting in three books and 110 articles on psychical research. Here also he opened new, promising lines of investigation and used his sophistication to advance methodology. He especially urged replication to ensure findings were solid, and advocated a field theory like his psychological theorizing, which embraced biological functions, needs and attitudes and especially interpersonal relations.
Murphy was an outstanding teacher. His lectures, with their wide-ranging knowledge, speculation and integrations, broadened the horizons of even the most learned. He encouraged and stimulated his students as he criticized them. He devoted himself to finding opportunities by which students and colleagues could advance their careers. His concern with furthering creative potential permeated his life as well as his writings.