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Revision as of 21:19, 18 February 2008
Charles Alan Murray (born 1943) is employed at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning think tank in Washington, DC. He is perhaps best known for his book The Bell Curve, co-authored with the late Richard Herrnstein, which discusses the role of IQ in American society. "The Bell Curve" generated substantial controversy for its statements about race and IQ.
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. As a teen he played pool at a hangout for juvenile delinquents, studied debating, and, to his parents' annoyance, espoused labor unionism.
Murray credits the SAT with helping him get out of Newton and into Harvard. "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. "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."
Murray obtained an A.B. in history from Harvard in 1965 and a Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1974.
Murray left for the Peace Corps in Thailand in 1965, staying abroad for a formative six years. 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." Murray subsequently proposed by mail from Thailand, and their marriage began the following year, a move that Murray now considers youthful rebellion. "I'm getting married to a one-handed Thai Buddhist," he said. "This was not the daughter-in-law that would have normally presented itself to an Iowa couple."
Murray credits his time in the Peace Corps in Thailand with his lifelong interest in Asia. "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. "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."
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.