His Life and Scientific Contributions
By Heather E. P. Cattell, Ph.D. and John Horn, Ph.D.
Raymond Bernard Cattell, who died at his home in Honolulu on February 2, 1998, must rank among the 20th century's most influential behavioral scientists. He has been, as Lewis Goldberg characterized him, psychology's master strategist. In more than 50 books and 500 articles and book chapters, he developed a theory of human behavior rivaled in comprehensiveness only by the theory of Freud, and rivaled by no other theory in its adherence to evidence derived from empirical research. While effects on a discipline of a particular person's writings are difficult to identify, it is clear that Cattell's research has contributed immensely to the breadth and depth of modern scientific psychology, both directly and through the hundreds of colleagues and students around the world with whom he worked.
Raymond B. Cattell was born in England in 1905 and grew up in a seaside Devonshire town where his father was a mechanical engineer who worked on such projects as developing innovations for WWI military equipment, for the steam engine, and for the new internal combustion engine. His early roots by the ocean gave him a great love of the sea, and his first book, recently reprinted, described his sailing experiences off the coast of Devon and Cornwall. Cattell distinguished himself in high school and earned a county scholarship to attend London University where he was drawn to the burgeoning field of chemistry and was awarded first class honors with his B.Sc. in chemistry. The years after the war were a time of tremendous intellectual and cultural upheaval, and Cattell was influenced by other young free thinkers such as Bertrand Russell, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, and Aldous Huxley. After a period of soul-searching, he concluded that work in the new social science of psychology would be most relevant in solving the outstanding political and economic problems that he saw around him. He felt that traditional solutions were not working and that developing an understanding of human nature was necessary to find new solutions.
After working in various applied settings, including England's first child guidance clinic and the progressive Dartington Hall School, Cattell worked on his Ph.D. with Charles Spearman, where he was involved in creating the new method of factor analysis in the study of Spearman's unitary factor theory of intelligence. In 1937, he accepted an invitation to join E. L. Thorndike's research staff at Columbia University, where he worked closely with adherents of the opposing multiple-factor theory of intelligence and this mix of viewpoints was important in developing his own theory of intelligence. Next, he accepted the G. Stanley Hall professorship at Clark University, where he worked on developing objective behavioral measures of personality and intelligence. He clarified his theory of fluid versus crystallized intelligence, which he presented at the 1942 APA convention.
At the invitation of Gordon Allport, Cattell joined the Harvard University faculty in 1941. His three years at Harvard were particularly influential to his thinking about personality, because of the stimulating environment of creative personologists such as Henry Murray, Robert White and Gordon Allport. Here Cattell first developed the idea that the new factor-analytic method that was so productive in studying abilities could also be powerful in understanding the complex area of personality. During World War II, Cattell worked as a civilian consultant to the Personnel Research Division developing tests for officer selection.
In 1945, Cattell accepted a research professorship at the University of Illinois. Here they were developing the first electronic computer, the Illiac I, which would make it possible for the first time to do large-scale factor analyses. Cattell founded the Laboratory of Personality Assessment and Group Behavior and began a period of intense creativity with a gifted staff of research associates from around the world. In addition to his personality theories, Cattell also made many advances in factor analysis and other methodologies and attributed the pace of his methodological improvements to the presence of a talented group of psychometricians at the University of Illinois, including Ledyard Tucker, Lee Cronbach, Paul Horst, and Henry Kaiser. Remarkable in this cooperation with others is the huge diversity of persons with whom Cattell has worked. In his relations no less than in his scientific theory, he has celebrated individual differences. The result of his work in the spirit of this celebration is a unique and mammoth contribution to the advancing psychological science.
In addition to hundreds of research publications, Cattell and his laboratory associates published four books that were extremely influential in the development of a science of personality: The Description and Measurement of Personality (1946), An Introduction to Personality Study (1949), Personality, a Systematic, Theoretical, and Factual Study (1950), and Personality and Motivation Structure and Measurement (1957). In these writings, Cattell brought together evidence from a methodologically sophisticated program of research studying personality and detailed a comprehensive theory of the development and organization of personality over the life span. More than a trait theory, Cattell's multiple-input, multiple output theory included transitory states and systematic changes in behavior resulting from motivation and learning, as well as from familial, cultural, genetic, and physiological factors. Most remarkably, Cattell steadfastly anchored his theory to empirical evidence. These books were widely read and influenced the design of personality research around the world. For example, Cattell's work on anxiety and neuroticism has become the core of modern theory of state and trait anxiety.
In 1960, Cattell called for an international meeting to bring together and increase communication among researchers in the scientific study of personality. This resulted in the foundation of the Society of Multivariate Experimental Psychology, and the prestigious journal Multivariate Behavioral Research.
He retired from the University of Illinois in 1973 and did research in Colorado for 5 years. He moved to Hawaii in 1978, where he took on the position of professor and adviser at the University of Hawaii and later taught at the Hawaii School of Professional Psychology, now the American School of Professional Psychology. In his spare time, he continued to write books and articles in psychological journals practically until his death. It has been said "Raymond Cattell can write faster than I can read." In a 1975 survey in which Sigmund Freud was ranked first among psychologist, living and dead, most indexed in professional journals and books, Raymond Cattell was ranked 11th. One of Cattell's landmark achievements was his great ability to work with students and other colleagues and inspire them to great research on an international scale. This is attested to by the affection, admiration, and high respect for him expressed by hundreds of students and coworkers with whom he has cooperated in research and writing. A large number of his former students have become widely known as outstanding scientists. In addition, he has brought together numerous outstanding authors in influential edited books, perhaps most notably the two Handbooks of Multivariate Experimental Psychology (1966, 1988).
Thus, in his remarkable 70-year
Raymond B. Cattell has made prodigious, landmark contributions
including factor analytic mapping of the domains of personality,
and abilities; exploration of three different media of
separation of fluid and crystallized intelligence; and
innovations. In short, he provided a model of the complete
in an age of specialization. It may be said that Cattell
without peer in his creation of a unified theory of individual
integrating intellectual, temperamental, and dynamic domains of
Overall, he must be considered among a very small handful of
century who have most influenced the shape of psychology as a
For more extensive biographical information, please see the following web site and publications:
Cattell, R. B.,
Autobiography. In G. Lindsey (Ed.), A history of psychology
York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1973. pp. 61-100.
Cattell, R. B., Structured personality learning theory. New York: Praeger, 1983.
Cattell, R. B. The voyage of a laboratory: 1928-1984. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 1984, 19 (2-3), pp. 121-174.
Cattell, R. B., The birth of the Society of Multivariate Experimental Psychology. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 26, January, 1990, pp. 48-57.
Miller, K.M. (Ed.), The analysis of personality in research and assessment: In tribute to Raymond B. Cattell. London: IARC, 1986. (Available in the U.S. from IPAT.)
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