Raymond Cattell Biography (1905-1998)

Raymond Cattell
Raymond B. Cattell. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Best Known For:

Birth and Death:

  • Raymond Cattell was born March 20, 1905.
  • He died February 2, 1998.

Early Life:

Raymond Cattell was born in a small town in England and he developed an interest in science early on in life. He went on to become the first person from his family to attend college, earning his BS in chemistry from the Kings College when he was just 19.

After witnessing the devastation of World War I, Cattell developed an interest in using science to solve human problems. He was also influenced by other thinkers of the time including George Bernard Shaw, Aldous Huxley, and H. G. Wells. He earned his Ph.D. in Psychology from University College, London in 1929.


After teaching for a few years at Exeter University, Cattell was invited to teach at Columbia University by pioneering psychologist Edward Thorndike. In 1938, he became a professor at Clark University, and in 1941, he moved to Harvard after being invited by Gordon Allport. In 1945, Cattell took a position at the University of Illinois where he established a research department. At the time, the school was developing a pioneering computer that allowed Cattell to conduct factor analysis on a much larger scale than was previously possible.

In 1973, Cattell retired from the University of Illinois and eventually settled in Hawaii, where he continued to teach, write and enjoy his life-long passion for sailing.

Contributions to Psychology:

In addition to his research in personality, motivation and intelligence, Raymond Cattell's work with multivariate analysis left a lasting mark on psychology. While earlier research in psychology had focused on studying single variables in isolation, Cattell pioneered the use of multivariate analysis that allowed researchers to view individual's as a whole and study aspects of human behavior that could not be studied in a lab setting.

Cattell is also well-known for his 16 Personality Factors, in which he and numerous colleagues utilized factor analysis to identify 16 different fundamental components of personality. He subsequently developed the 16PF Personality Questionnaire, which is still widely used today.

Cattell also influenced the work of other psychologists. In a 2002 review of eminent psychologists, Raymond Cattell's professional writings ranked as the seventh most frequently cited in psychology journals over the past 100 years. Psychologists were also surveyed as asked to name who they felt was the most eminent psychologist of the 20th century. Cattell was ranked at number 16.

In a memorial biography, Heather E. P. Cattell and John Horn wrote, "In his remarkable 70-year career, Raymond B. Cattell has made prodigious, landmark contributions to psychology, including factor analytic mapping of the domains of personality, motivation, and abilities; exploration of three different media of assessment; separation of fluid and crystallized intelligence; and numerous methodological innovations.

In short, he provided a model of the complete psychologist in an age of specialization. It may be said that Cattell stands without peer in his creation of a unified theory of individual differences integrating intellectual, temperamental, and dynamic domains of personality. Overall, he must be considered among a very small handful of people in this century who have most influenced the shape of psychology as a science."

Selected Publications

  • Cattell, R. B. (1978). The Scientific Use of Factor Analysis in Behavioral and Life Sciences. New York: Plenum.
  • Cattell, R. B. (1957). Personality and Motivation Structure and Measurement. New York: World Book.
  • Cattell, R. B. (1952). Factor analysis. New York: Wiley.
  • Cattell, R. B. (1950). Personality a systematic theoretical and factual study. New York: McGraw Hill.


Cattell, H. E. P. & Horn, J. (2012). A short biography: Raymond Bernard Cattell. Retrieved from http://www.cattell.net/devon/rbcbio.htm

Horn, J. (2000). Cattell, Raymond B. In A. E. Kazdin (Ed), Encyclopedia of psychology, 2, 55-57. Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

Indiana University. (2007). Raymond B. Cattell. Human Intelligence. Found online at http://www.indiana.edu/~intell/rcattell.shtml

S. J. Haggbloom et al. (2002), "The 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century", Review of General Psychology, 6(2), 139-152.

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