Gardner Murphy, 83, a noted psycologist whose writings ranged from the development of personality and social psychology to extrasensory perception, died of cardiac arrest Sunday at George Washington University Hospital.
His career as a student, researcher and teacher of psychology spanned more than 60 years. He was educated at Yale, Harvard and Columbia universities. He was on the Columbia faculty from 1921 to 1940; taught at the City College of New York from 1940 to 1952; was director of research at the Menninger Foundation at Topeka, Kan., from 1952 to 1968, and a professor of psychology at George Washington University from 1968 to 1973.
With his wife, Lois Barclay Murphy, also a well known psychologist, he continued to write until his death despite illnesses in recent years.
His professional honors included the presidency of the American Psychological Association (1941-1942). the presidency of the American Society of Psychic Research (1961-1971) and the Butler Medal from Columbia University (1932). In 1972, he received the APA's Gold Medal Award.
Dr. Murphy was a student of religion, philosophy and the classics as well as of psychology. His work on psychology included explorations of ways in which that discipline might reduce the possibilities of wars and other conflicts. He was an expert on William James.
In an autobiographical sketch published in 1967, he stated his belief "that things are best understood through the study of their origins and evolution... (and) that psychology is only separable from the biological sciences on the one hand, and the social sciences on the other, through some sort of arbitrary compartmentalization which is likely to do much more harm than good."
Thus, Dr. Murphy's books are informed with a wide array of knowledge drawn from many disciplines. Man, he wrote in "Human Potentialities" (1958), is always changing and the study of man's nature requires ever changing perspectives.
In an article adapted from the book, Dr. Murphy said that this process of change was producing "radically new kinds of human nature. What is needed now is a readiness for bold, even extravagant, informed and serious guessing as to potentialities utterly different from those that can be extrapolated from man's present and past behavior."
Dr. Murphy's interest in extrasensory perception began when he was a young man. It was whetted by his study of the works of William James and continued to occupy much of his time for the rest of his life.
In his autobiographical sketch, he stated the case for pursuing psychic phenomena in these terms: "How far can any science get by laying down rules as to what can and what cannot happen? ... The scientific challenge to create a kind of field theory sufficiently open to provide a place for the main parapsychological findings still stands. I have published extensively along these lines, but the best I can do today is still a pretty poor thing."
Dr. Murphy was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, and spent much of his boyhood in New England. Following his graduation from Yale in 1916, he served in France in a medical unit in World War I. He later earned a master's degree at Harvard and a doctorate at Columbia. He received honorary doctorates from the University of the City of New York in 1975 and from the University of Hamburg in 1976.
In addition to his wife, of the home in Washington, survivors include a son, Alpen, of New York City, a daughter, Margaret Small, of Bay St. Louis, Miss., four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.