Gardner Murphy

Gardner Murphy (1895–1979) was an American psychologist specialising in social and personality psychology, and parapsychology.[1] His career highlights included serving as president of the American Psychological Association, and of the British Society for Psychical Research.[2]


Murphy was born on July 8, 1895 in Chillicothe, Ohio, US. He was the son of Edgar Gardner Murphy, an Episcopal minister.[1] Upon graduating with a B.A. from Yale University in 1916, Murphy attended Harvard University, working with L. T. Troland in a telepathy experiment, and achieving his M.A. in 1917. Murphy succeeded Troland as holder of the Hodgson Fellowship in Psychical Research at Harvard University. After the war, in 1919, Murphy continued his studies at Columbia University, working towards his Ph.D., and combined this, until it was awarded in 1923, with work under the Hodgson Fellowship.[3]

He studied the medium Leonora Piper, and collaborating with French chemist and psychical researcher René Warcollier in a transatlantic telepathy experiment. From 1921-1925, he served as lecturer in psychology at Columbia University. In 1925, Clark University hosted a symposium on psychical research, and, together with Harvard psychologist William McDougall, Murphy argued for the respect of the field as an academic discipline, while recognizing the difficulties of scientific acceptance and experimentation. From 1925-1929, he continued at Columbia University in the capacity of instructor and assistant professor in psychology. He was re-appointed as Hodgson Fellow at Harvard in 1937. From 1940-1942 he was professor and chairman of the Department of Psychology at City College in New York. From 1952, he worked as director of research for the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas. He was elected to the presidency of the American Psychological Association in 1944. He subsequently served as the President of the British Society for Psychical Research in 1949 (which he had joined in 1917), and was Director of the Parapsychology Foundation in 1951.[1][4]

Murphy authored several texts in psychology, including Historical Introduction to Modern Psychology (1928; 1949), Personality (1947), and Human Potentialities (1958). He was a contributor to personality, social and clinical psychology and an early exponent of humanistic psychology.[5] During these years, he continued his association with psychical research, including sitting on the council of the American Society for Psychical Research and serving as chair of its research committee; serving as an editor of the Journal of Parapsychology (1939–1941), speaking at professional symposia on psychical research; writing report, review and critical articles in general scientific, psychological as well as parapsychological journals.[1] He also supported (through his own book royalties) experimental studies by J. G. Pratt at Columbia (1935–1937); authoring an introductory review to the field, The Challenge of Psychical Research (1961), as well as William James and Psychical Research (1973) (with R. Ballou) and a 20-page article on parapsychology for the Encyclopedia of Psychology (1946); editing an English-language publication of Warcollier's reports (1938) and writing forewords for several parapsychological monographs.

Murphy died on 18 March 1979 in Washington, D.C.[6]


Murphy's Historical Introduction to Modern Psychology (1929) received a positive review in the British Medical Journal which stated "no purely objective record could be as successful as Dr. Gardner Murphy's presentation of the history, which bears evidence everywhere of a judicious choice of material and of such emphasis as is free from any prepossession."[7] Edwin Boring described it as "an exceptionally good book".[8] The 1949 revised edition received a mixed review by Alphonse Chapanis in The Quarterly Review of Biology who wrote the book did not present a balanced synopsis of research but recommended it as a "useful addition to the psychologist's library".[9] However, Ralph H. Turner wrote Murphy maintained an "exceptional order of objectivity through most of his presentation" and described it as "a very useful text".[10]

Murphy's introductory psychological textbook An Introduction to Psychology (1951) received positive reviews.[11][12] Alastair Heron described it as a "textbook for the interested and not-too-sophisticated reader who hopes to become more interested without becoming at the same time more sophisticated."[13]

In his book Challenge of Psychical Research (1961), Murphy documented research into clairvoyance, precognition, psychokinesis and telepathy.[14] John L. Kennedy wrote there was inadequate information about the role of the experimenter during psychical research experiments.[15] Ralph W. Gerard gave the book a positive review but stated the results from the experiments may be explainable by alternative factors such as misinterpretation or unintended cues without recourse to the paranormal.[16]





  1. 1 2 3 4 Martin Seymour-Smith, Andrew C. Kimmens. (1996). World Authors, 1900-1950, Volume 3. H.W. Wilson. p. 1876. ISBN 08-2420-899-4
  2. "Gardner Murphy". Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology.
  3. M. Basavanna. (2000). Dictionary of Psychology. Allied Publishers. p. 263. ISBN 81-7764-030-5
  4. "Gardner Murphy". Occultism & Parapsychology Encyclopedia.
  5. Benjamin J. Sadock, Virginia A. Sadock. (2007). Kaplan and Sadock's Synopsis of Psychiatry: Behavioral Sciences/Clinical Psychiatry. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 221. ISBN 0-7817-7327-X
  6. John Shook. (2005). Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers. Theommes Continuum. p. 1776. ISBN 1-84371-037-4
  7. History Of Psychology. (1929). British Medical Journal. Vol. 2, No. 3575. pp. 53-54.
  8. Edwin Boring. (1930). Historical Introduction to Modern Psychology by Gardner Murphy. American Journal of Psychology. Vol. 42, No. 1. pp. 156-161.
  9. Alphonse Chapanis. (1950). Historical Introduction to Modern Psychology by Gardner Murphy. The Quarterly Review of Biology. Vol. 25, No. 1. p. 114.
  10. Ralph H. Turner. (1950). Historical Introduction to Modern Psychology by Gardner Murphy. American Journal of Sociology. Vol. 55, No. 4. pp. 428-429.
  11. Erling W. Eng. (1953). An Introduction to Psychology by Gardner Murphy; Herbert Spohn. The Quarterly Review of Biology. Vol. 28, No. 2. pp. 222-223.
  12. Oliver Zangwill. (1953). Psychology: The Fundamentals of Human Adjustment by Norman L. Munn; An Introduction to Psychology by Gardner Murphy. American Journal of Psychology. Vol. 66, No. 2. pp. 316-319.
  13. Alastair Heron. (1952). An Introduction to Psychology by Gardner Murphy. British Journal of Industrial Medicine. Vol. 9, No. 4. pp. 315-316.
  14. "Challenge of Psychical Research by Gardner Murphy". Kirkus Reviews.
  15. John L. Kennedy. (1962). Challenge of Psychical Research: A Primer of Parapsychology by Gardner Murphy. American Journal of Psychology. Vol. 75, No. 4. p. 709.
  16. Ralph W. Gerard. (1962). Out, Damned Spot! Beyond the Reach of Sense by Rosalind Heywood. Challenge of Psychical Research by Gardner Murphy. The American Scholar. Vol. 31, No. 1. pp. 152-154.

Further reading

Educational offices
Preceded by
John Edward Anderson
53rd President of the American Psychological Association
Succeeded by
Edwin R. Guthrie
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