Timothy LEARY

Family tree of Timothy LEARY


AmericanBorn Timothy Francis LEARY

American psychologist and writer

Born on October 22, 1920 in Springfield, Massachusetts, USA , United States

Died on May 31, 1996 in Los Angeles, California, USA

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Leary was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, the only child of an Irish American dentist who abandoned his wife Abigail Ferris when Leary was thirteen. Leary graduated from Springfield's Classical High School.

Timothy Leary attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts from September 1938 to June 1940. Under pressure from his father, Leary enrolled as a cadet in the United States Military Academy at West Point. In his first months he acquired numerous demerits for rule infractions and then got into serious trouble for failing to report infractions by other cadets when on supervisory duty. He was alleged to have engaged in a bout of drinking and then failed to be forthright about it. For violating the Academy's honor code, he was asked by the Honor Committee to resign. When he refused, he was "silenced"; that is, shunned and ignored by his fellow cadets as a tactic to pressure him to resign. Though acquitted by a court-martial, the silencing continued, as well as an onslaught of demerits for minuscule infractions of the rules. When the treatment continued in his second year, his mother appealed to a family friend, United States Senator David I. Walsh, head of the Senate Naval Affairs Committee, who conducted a personal investigation. Behind the scenes, the Honor Committee revised its position and announced that it would abide by the court-martial verdict. Leary then resigned and received an honorable discharge. Almost fifty years later, Leary said that it was "the only fair trial I've had in a court of law".


Leary transferred to University of Alabama where he received a B.A. degree in psychology in 1943. His obituary in the New York Times said he "finally earned his bachelor's degree in the United States Army during World War II," when he was a sergeant in the Medical Corps. He received an M.S. degree in psychology at Washington State University in 1946, and his Ph.D. degree in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley in 1950. The title of Leary's Ph.D. dissertation was "The Social Dimensions of Personality: Group Structure and Process." He became an assistant professor at Berkeley (1950–1955), director of psychiatric research at the Kaiser Family Foundation (1955–1958), and a lecturer in psychology at Harvard University (1959–1963). He was fired from Harvard for failing to conduct his scheduled class lectures, though he claimed that he had fulfilled all of his teaching obligations. The decision to dismiss him was allegedly influenced by his role in the popularity of then-legal psychedelic substances among Harvard students and faculty members.

Leary's early work in psychology expanded on the research of Harry Stack Sullivan and Karen Horney regarding the importance of interpersonal forces in mental health. Leary focused on how the interpersonal process might be used to diagnose disorders and patterns found in human personalities. He developed a complex and respected interpersonal circumplex model, published in The Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality, which offered a means by which psychologists could use MMPI scores to determine a respondent's characteristic interpersonal modes of reaction.

In 1945 Leary married Marianne Busch, who gave birth in 1947 to their first child, Susan, while he was working on his doctorate at the University of California at Berkeley. Susan was followed two years later by a son, Jack. In 1952 the Leary family spent a year in Spain, subsisting on a research grant awarded to Leary. A Berkeley colleague, Marv Freedman, later recounted that "... Something had been stirred in him in terms of breaking out of being another cog in society ...".

In 1955, Leary's wife committed suicide, leaving him to raise their son and daughter alone. He described himself during this period as "an anonymous institutional employee who drove to work each morning in a long line of commuter cars and drove home each night and drank martinis ... like several million middle-class, liberal, intellectual robots."

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Geographical origins

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