Charles Murray (author)

Charles Murray (author)
Charles Alan Murray
Born January 8, 1943 (1943-01-08) (age 68)
Newton, Iowa
Citizenship American
Fields Political science, Social Science, History of Science
Institutions American Enterprise Institute
Alma mater

B.A. Harvard University (history) 1965

Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (political science) 1974
Known for The Bell Curve, Losing Ground, Human Accomplishment
Notable awards Irving Kristol Award (2009), issued by the American Enterprise Institute
Kistler Prize (2011)
Spouse Suchart Dej-Udom 1966-08-19 (divorced, 1980)
Catherine Bly Cox (an English professor), 1983-07-29

Charles Alan Murray (born 1943) is an American libertarian political scientist, author, columnist, and pundit currently working as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, DC.[3] He is best known for his controversial book The Bell Curve, co-authored with the late Richard Herrnstein in 1994, which argues that intelligence plays a central role in American society.[3]

He first became well known for his Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950–1980 in 1984, which discussed the American welfare system.[3] Murray has also written In Pursuit: Of Happiness and Good Government in 1988, What It Means to be a Libertarian: A Personal Interpretation in 1996, Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950 in 2003, and In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State 2006. He published Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality on August 19, 2008.[3]

His articles have appeared in Commentary Magazine, The New Criterion, The Weekly Standard, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. Murray has received a doctorate honoris causa from Universidad Francisco Marroquín.[5]



Early life and education

Murray was raised in Newton, Iowa in a Republican, non-collegiate "Norman Rockwell kind of family" that stressed moral responsibility; he had an intellectual youth marked by a rebellious and prankster sensibility.[6] As a teen he played pool at a hangout for juvenile delinquents, studied debating, and, to his parents' annoyance, espoused labor unionism.[7]

Murray credits the SAT with helping him get out of Newton and into Harvard.[8] "Back in 1961, the test helped get me into Harvard from a small Iowa town by giving me a way to show that I could compete with applicants from Exeter and Andover," said Murray.[8] "Ever since, I have seen the SAT as the friend of the little guy, just as James Bryant Conant, president of Harvard, said it would be when he urged the SAT upon the nation in the 1940s."[8]

Murray obtained a B.A. in history from Harvard in 1965 and a Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1974.[3]

Peace Corps service in Thailand

Murray left for the Peace Corps in Thailand in 1965, staying abroad for a formative six years.[9] At the beginning of this period, the young Murray kindled a romance with his Thai Buddhist language instructor (in Hawaii), Suchart Dej-Udom, the daughter of a wealthy Thai businessman, who was "born with one hand and a mind sharp enough to outscore the rest of the country on the college entrance exam."[6] Murray subsequently proposed by mail from Thailand, and their marriage began the following year, a move that Murray now considers youthful rebellion.[6] "I'm getting married to a one-handed Thai Buddhist," he said.[6] "This was not the daughter-in-law that would have normally presented itself to an Iowa couple."[6]

Murray credits his time in the Peace Corps in Thailand with his lifelong interest in Asia.[10] "There are aspects of Asian culture as it is lived that I still prefer to Western culture, 30 years after I last lived in Thailand," says Murray.[10] "Two of my children are half-Asian. Apart from those personal aspects, I have always thought that the Chinese and Japanese civilizations had elements that represented the apex of human accomplishment in certain domains."[10]

Murray's work in the Peace Corps and subsequent social research in Thailand for research firms associated with the U.S. government led to the subject of his statistical doctoral thesis in political science at M.I.T., in which he argued against bureaucratic intervention in the lives of the Thai villagers.[11][12]

Divorce and remarriage

By the 1980s, his marriage to Suchart Dej-Udom had been unhappy for years, but "his childhood lessons on the importance of responsibility brought him slowly to the idea that divorce was an honorable alternative, especially with young children involved."[13]

Murray divorced Dej-Udom after fourteen years of marriage[6] and three years later married Catherine Bly Cox (born 1949, Newton, Iowa),[14] an English literature instructor at Rutgers University. Cox was initially dubious when she saw his conservative reading choices, and she spent long hours "trying to reconcile his shocking views with what she saw as his deep decency." In 1989, Murray and Cox co-authored a book on the Apollo program, Apollo: Race to the Moon.[15] Murray attends and Cox is a member of a Quaker meeting in Virginia, and they live in Frederick County, Maryland near Washington, D.C.[16]

Murray has four children, two by each wife, and remains close with both families.[17]


Murray began research work at the American Institutes for Research (AIR), one of the largest of the private social science research organizations, upon his return to the U.S. From 1974-1981, Murray worked for the AIR eventually becoming chief political scientist. While at AIR, Murray supervised evaluations in the fields of urban education, welfare services, daycare, adolescent pregnancy, services for the elderly, and criminal justice.

From 1981-1990, he was a fellow with the conservative Manhattan Institute where he wrote Losing Ground, which heavily influenced the welfare reform debate in 1996, and In Pursuit.

He has been a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute since 1990 and is a frequent contributor to The Public Interest, a journal of conservative politics and culture. In March 2009, he received AEI's highest honor, the Irving Kristol Award.

Murray has received grants from the conservative Bradley Foundation to support his scholarship, including the writing of The Bell Curve.

The Bell Curve

The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (1994) (ISBN 0-02-914673-9) is a controversial, best-selling 1994 book that Charles Murray wrote with the late Harvard professor Richard J. Herrnstein. Its central point is that intelligence is a better predictor of many factors including financial income, job performance, unwed pregnancy, and crime than one's parents' socio-economic status or education level. Also, the book argued that those with high intelligence (the "cognitive elite") are becoming separated from the general population of those with average and below-average intelligence, and that this was a dangerous social trend.

Much of the controversy erupted from Chapters 13 and 14, where the authors write about the enduring differences in race and intelligence and discuss implications of that difference. The authors were reported throughout the popular press as arguing that these IQ differences are genetic. The authors write in the introduction to Chapter 13 that "The debate about whether and how much genes and environment have to do with ethnic differences remains unresolved," while also saying that "It seems highly likely to us that both genes and the environment have something to do with racial differences."

The book's title comes from the bell shaped normal distribution of IQ scores. The normal distribution is the limiting distribution of a random quantity which is the sum of smaller, independent random phenomena. The message in the title is that IQ scores are normally distributed because a person's intelligence is the sum of many small random variations in genetic and environmental factors.[citation needed]

Shortly after publication, large numbers of people rallied both to criticize and defend the book. Some critics denounced the book and its authors as supporting scientific racism. A number of books were written in response, to criticize The Bell Curve. Those books included a revised edition of evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man, The Bell Curve Wars, a collection of essays reacting to Murray and Herrnstein's divisive commentary, as well as The Bell Curve Debate, which contains essays that respond to the controversial issues raised in The Bell Curve. Arthur S. Goldberger and Charles F. Manski critique the empirical methods used to justify the book's hypotheses.[18] They criticize the authors and the publisher for circumventing the peer review process that serious scientific books must undergo to demonstrate the scientific merit of the research.

Views on Education

Murray has been critical of the No Child Left Behind law, arguing that it "set a goal that was devoid of any contact with reality. ... The United States Congress, acting with large bipartisan majorities, at the urging of the President, enacted as the law of the land that all children are to be above average."[19] He sees the law an example of "Educational romanticism [which] asks too much from students at the bottom of the intellectual pile, asks the wrong things from those in the middle, and asks too little from those at the top."[19]

Challenging "educational romanticism" he wrote Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality. His "four simple truths" are"

  1. "Ability varies."
  2. "Half of the children are below average."
  3. "Too many people are going to college."
  4. "America's future depends on how we educate the academically gifted."[20]

The New York Times interviewer Deborah Solomon gave an example (of what Murray calls "educational romanticism") when she said "I believe that given the opportunity, most people could do most anything." Murray responded "You’re out of touch with reality in that regard."[21]

Other books

  • A Behavioral Study of Rural Modernization: Social and Economic Change in Thai Villages (Praeger Publishers, 1977)
  • Beyond Probation: Juvenile Corrections and the Chronic Delinquent - co-authored with Louis A. Cox, Jr. (Sage Publications, 1979)
  • Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980, Basic Books (1984) ISBN 0-465-04231-7; on welfare reform
  • In Pursuit: Of Happiness and Good Government, Simon & Schuster (1989) ISBN 0-671-68743-3
  • Apollo: The Behind-the-Scenes Story of One of Humankind’s Greatest Achievements, with Catherine Bly Cox, Simon & Schuster, 1989.
  • What it Means to be a Libertarian, Broadway Books (1997) ISBN 0-553-06928-4
  • "IQ and economic success." Public Interest, 128, 21–35. (1997)
  • Income Inequality and IQ, AEI Press (1998) PDF copy
  • The Underclass Revisited, AEI Press (1999) PDF copy
  • Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950, HarperCollins (2003) ISBN 0-06-019247-X; a quantification and ranking of well-known scientists and artists
  • In Our Hands: A Plan To Replace The Welfare State, AEI Press (March 2006) ISBN 0-8447-4223-6
  • Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing American Schools Back to Reality, Crown Forum (August 2008) ISBN 978-0-307-40538-8
  • Coming Apart at the Seams

Op-ed writings

Murray has published opinion pieces in The New Republic, Commentary, The Public Interest, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, National Review, and the Washington Post.[22] He has been a witness before United States congressional and senate committees and a consultant to senior Republican government officials in the United States, and conservative officials in the United Kingdom, Eastern Europe, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).[22]

In the April, 2007 issue of Commentary Magazine, Murray wrote on the disproportionate representation of Jews in the ranks of outstanding achievers and says that one of the reasons is that Jews "have been found to have an unusually high mean intelligence as measured by IQ tests since the first Jewish samples were tested." His article concludes with the assertion: "At this point, I take sanctuary in my remaining hypothesis, uniquely parsimonious and happily irrefutable. The Jews are God's chosen people."[23]

In the July/August, 2007 issue of The American, a magazine published by the American Enterprise Institute, Murray says he has changed his mind about SAT tests and says it's time to scrap the test. "The evidence has become overwhelming that the SAT no longer serves a democratizing purpose. Worse, events have conspired to make the SAT a negative force in American life. And so I find myself arguing that the SAT should be ended. Not just deemphasized, but no longer administered. Nothing important would be lost by so doing. Much would be gained."[8]

Speaking Engagements

Murray has generated controversy in numerous speaking engagements around the country. In 2010, Murray was invited to speak at the Oshkosh Partners in Education Council in Oshkosh, Wisconsin at the urging of then Republican Senate Candidate Rob Johnson, creating a great deal of controversy.[24] On March 23, 2011, while speaking at Earlham College, Murray's speech, titled "Taking Happiness Seriously"[25] was disrupted by someone pulling the fire alarm, resulting in the evacuation of the building and relocation to another building for the remainder of the talk. Afterwards, during a reception for Murray, a fire alarm was again pulled disrupting the reception.[26]

See also


  1. ^ Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2008. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2008. Document Number: H1000118555
  2. ^ "Book TV - FreedomFest 2008: Charles Murray, author of "Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality"". Retrieved 2008-08-25. "From FreedomFest 2008, held in Las Vegas, Charles Murray talks about his latest book which takes a critical look at the educational system in America and proposes ways to improve it." 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "AEI - Scholars & Fellows - Charles Murray". Retrieved 2008-08-25. 
  4. ^ "Biography of Murray, Charles A." (fee). Current Biography. HW Wilson. 1986. Retrieved 2008-08-25. 
  5. ^ "Doctorado Honorífico durante el Acto de Graduación, Charles Murray" (in (Spanish)).,_Charles_Murray. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f By Jason DeParle; (1994-10-09). "New York Times. " Daring Research or 'Social Science Pornography'?: Charles Murray" by Jason Deparle. October 9, 1994". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  7. ^ DeParle 1994, pp. 3–4. DeParle's biographical article finds in some of Murray's life and work a still-present theme of a high-school prankster who "only [learns] later what the fuss [is] all about" (p. 12). Some critics, however, have found significant one incident written about by DeParle:
    "While there is much to admire about the industry and inquisitiveness of Murray's teen-age years, there is at least one adventure that he understandably deletes from the story — the night he helped his friends burn a cross. They had formed a kind of good guys' gang, "the Mallows," whose very name, from marshmallows, was a play on their own softness. In the fall |of 1960, during their senior year, they nailed some scrap wood into a cross, adorned it with fireworks and set it ablaze on a hill beside the police station, with marshmallows scattered as a calling card.
    Rutledge [a social worker and former juvenile delinquent] who was still hanging around the pool hall [and considers some of Murray's other memories to be idealized] recalls his astonishment the next day when the talk turned to racial persecution in a town with two black families. "There wouldn't have been a racist thought in our simple-minded minds," he says. "That's how unaware we were."
    A long pause follows when Murray is reminded of the event. "Incredibly, incredibly dumb," he says. "But it never crossed our minds that this had any larger significance. And I look back on that and say, 'How on earth could we be so oblivious?' I guess it says something about that day and age that it didn't cross our minds" (p. 4).
  8. ^ a b c d "The American. "Abolish the SAT" by Charles Murray. July/August 2007 Issue". July/August 2007. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  9. ^ DeParle, pp. 4-5.
  10. ^ a b c "UPI. "Q&A with Charles Murray on Human Accomplishment" by Steve Sailer. October 16, 2003". 2003-10-16. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  11. ^ De Parle 1994.
  12. ^ McIntosh 2006: "My epiphany came in Thailand in the 1960s, when I first came to understand how badly bureaucracies dealt with human problems in the villages, and how well (with qualifications) villagers dealt with their own problems given certain conditions." Gene Expression: 10 questions for Charles Murray
  13. ^ DeParle, p. 7.
  14. ^ "Cox, Catherine Bly, 1949- . Papers, 1962-1967: A Finding Aid". Radcliffe College. January 1986. Retrieved 2008-09-21. 
  15. ^ Nasa Symposium on Forty Years of Human Spaceflight (2001). The book was well reviewed: "Rich, densely packed and beautifully told.... Filled with cliffhangers, suspense and spine-tingling adventure." -Charles Sheffield, Washington Post Book World, July 9, 1989. "Heart-gripping.... So brilliantly told one can almost smell the perspiration in Houston Mission Control." -Charles Petit, San Francisco Chronicle, July 9, 1989:
  16. ^ Quaker meeting: The Quaker Economist #82 - The Bell Curve; current location: DeParle p. 8.
  17. ^ Two children from each marriage: DeParle, pp. 7-8.
  18. ^ Arthur S. Goldberger & Charles F. Manski, 1995. "The Bell Curve: Review Article," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(2), pages 762-776, June.
  19. ^ a b Murray, Charles (2008-05-01). "Articles & Commentary: The Age of Educational Romanticism". Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  20. ^ Murray, Charles (2008-08-19). "Real Education". AEI. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  21. ^ Questions for Charles Murray: Head of the Class
  22. ^ a b National Review Cruise. "Speaker's Biography of Charles Murray." May 2, 2008.[dead link]
  23. ^ "Jewish Genius". Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  24. ^ "Ron Johnson paid for controversial author Charles Murray to speak despite objections". The Northwestern. 
  25. ^ "Earlham College Events". Earlham College Webpage. Retrieved 24 March 2011. 
  26. ^ Bennett, Doug. "Under a Cloud of Intolerance and Cowardice". The Observatory Blog. Retrieved 24 March 2011. 

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