Raymond Bernard Cattell: A Lifetime of Achievement

By Lamb, Kevin | Mankind Quarterly, Fall 1997 | Go to article overview

Raymond Bernard Cattell: A Lifetime of Achievement


Lamb, Kevin, Mankind Quarterly


World-renowned for his academic integrity, industriousness and commitment to scientific objectivity, Mankind Quarterly editorial board member Raymond B. Cattell has made massive contributions to behavioral science which have altered the direction and pace of research in various psychological fields. These include personality, intelligence, temperament, human motivation, learning and multivariate behavioral analysis. However, his concerns about the future of mankind's genetic heritage and about the need to apply scientific knowledge to the resolution of ethical dilemmas have led a small group of non-scientists to exert pressure to suppress professional recognition of his exceptional contributions to psychological science on grounds that had nothing to do with the magnitude of his contribution to science.

KEY WORDS: Raymond B. Cattell, American Psychological Foundation, Multivariate Behavioral Research, IQ, Personality.

In historic terms, the achievements of creative intellects such as Galileo, Newton and Darwin have generated a fervent degree of criticism. Over the years the salience of Raymond Bernard Cattell's impressive record of accomplishments has likewise fueled criticism from hostile social ideologues. Despite these shallow critiques, no one anticipated the intense eleventh-hour pressure that forced the American Psychological Foundation to withhold their lifetime achievement award to one of the most qualified candidates ever to be selected for this recognition. The following biographical sketch borrows heavily from the material prepared by Professor John L. Horn for submission to the American Psychological Foundation as a part of the nominating process which led the APF awards committee, comprising six former presidents, to grant professor Cattell the 1997 Gold Medal Award for Lifetime Achievement in Psychological Science. The decision to withhold the award after it had been publicly announced and after Cattell had travelled from Honolulu to Chicago to receive it, was made as a result of pressure from a small group of non-psychologists on grounds that were purely political.

Early Life

Born in England in 1905, Raymond Bernard Cattell was the second of three sons raised in a gifted family with solid English and Scottish roots. His family moved from Staffordshire (in England) to Devonshire when he was six years of age, and he therefore spent the formative years of his childhood in the Devonshire countryside.

Following the tradition of his father and grandfather's family-run manufacturing and engineering factories, Cattell's two brothers took up engineering as a profession. Raymond Cattell, however, chose differently. In 1924 he won a scholarship to King's College, Cambridge University, at the exceptionally early age of fifteen and just four years later, at the age of nineteen, he graduated with first class honors with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry. He was obviously a child of exceptional intelligence, his father's IQ having been recorded as 120, and his mother's as 150.

During this period, Cattell's scientific interests shifted from chemistry to the emerging field of psychology. This decision was made after attending a lecture by the eminent British psychologist, Sir Cyril Burt. Cattell's first publication ("The Significance of the Actual Resistance in Psycho-Galvanic Experiments") appeared in the British Journal of Psychology in 1928, while he was still engaged in postgraduate studies at the University of London under the direction of Charles Spearman. He won his Ph.D. in 1928, and his dissertation on The Subjective Character of Cognition was published as a British Journal of Psychology monograph in 1931.

Early in his career, Cattell developed two fundamental interests that have influenced the scope and direction of his life's work: the importance of establishing an objective framework from which to study individual differences in human behavior and the necessity of applying scientific principles to social, political and economic problems. …

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