Henry Alexander Murray (May 13, 1893 – June 23, 1988) was an American psychologist at Harvard University. He was Director of the Harvard Psychological Clinic in the School of Arts and Sciences after 1930. Murray developed a theory of personality called personology, based on “need” and “press”. Murray was also a co-developer, with Christiana Morgan, of the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), which he referred to as “the second best-seller that Harvard ever published, second only to the Harvard Handbook of Music.” Murray is also noteworthy in popular culture for his links to future domestic terrorist Ted Kaczynski, whom Murray subjected to a set of controversial, psychologically-damaging experiments from 1959 to 1962.
Harvard Human Experiments, 1959-62
From late 1959 to early 1962, Murray was responsible for unethical experiments in which he used twenty-two Harvard undergraduates as research subjects. Among other goals, experiments sought to measure individuals’ responses to extreme stress. The unwitting undergraduates were submitted to what Murray called “vehement, sweeping and personally abusive” attacks. Specifically-tailored assaults to their egos, cherished ideas and beliefs were used to cause high levels of stress and distress. The subjects then viewed recorded footage of their reactions to this verbal abuse repeatedly.
Among them was 17-year-old Ted Kaczynski, a mathematician who went on to become the Unabomber, a domestic terrorist targeting academics and technologists for 18 years. Alston Chase’s book Harvard and the Unabomber: The Education of an American Terrorist connects Kaczynski‘s abusive experiences under Murray to his later criminal career.
In 1960, Timothy Leary started research in psychedelic drugs at Harvard, which Murray is said to have supervised.