Isabel Briggs Myers – WOMAN of ACTION™


A Celebration of Women™ 

is inspired to Celebrate the Life of  this conscientious mind, who devoted her life to the betterment of others.  

She  embarked on a project of reading biographies and developed her own typology based on patterns she found. She identified meditative types, spontaneous types, executive types, and sociable types.

She cared deeply about her work and fought for it against all criticisms. If data showed her wrong, she was all attention. She now had a new problem to solve to improve the Indicator. She never ceased her search for perfection. 





Isabel Briggs Myers

What Is To Be Desired?


Self-respect: To be part of the solution, not part of the problem
To love the human beings that mean the most to me, and contribute to their lives if I can
Peace of Mind:
To avoid mistakes that make me regret the past or fear the future
Always to be tremendously interested
To incorporate the things, people and ideas that happen to me into a coherent concept of the world
To work at what interests me most, with minimum expenditure of time and energy on non-essentials

— Isabel Briggs Myers

Childhood and education – Isabel Briggs Myers was born October 18, 1897, and grew up in Washington, DC. Her father, Lyman James Briggs, worked in the field of physics. As a child, Isabel was home-schooled by her mother Katharine Cook Briggs because Katharine was home-schooled herself. Briggs Myers has credited her work on the MBTI to her parents. She wrote that due to her father’s position as Director of the Bureau of Standards, she learned that researching something that no one else has researched was “the greatest fun in the world”.  She also wrote that she learned from her mother that formal education is not always necessary up until the college level and that was incorporated in the making of the MBTI.

Briggs Myers went on to Swarthmore College to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science. She met her future husband of 61 years, Clarence Myers, at the college.

Partnership with mother – Briggs Myers’ mother, Katharine Cook Briggs, was one of the reasons that Isabel became involved in the psychological field. Since childhood, Katharine Briggs developed a dream of learning about people. She studied the development of personalities and how a person can reach “full potential”.

Briggs began to discern differences among people who were healthy and active in society. She watched personality differences between these people.

Briggs Myers became interested in the same concepts as her mother and the two eventually co-created the MBTI.

Briggs Myers devoted the latter half of her life to carrying out her mother’s vision by utilizing the MBTI for further research and application for individuals.

Encountering Jung’s ideas – Carl Jung (1912)

In 1923, Briggs Myers and her mother learned about Carl Jung’s typological ideas through reading his book Psychological Types. They encountered the book after Katharine Briggs met Clarence Myers on a Christmas vacation. Briggs noticed that there were many differences in personality with Clarence Myers compared to other men in her family and began researching personality types. From this Briggs developed four types: meditative, spontaneous, executive, sociable. They believed that Jung’s ideas about personality could be instrumental in helping people make positive decisions in life. They began “type watching”, observing personality aspects and habits for 25 years.

Briggs Myers implemented Jung’s ideas and added her own insights. She then created a paper survey which would eventually become the MBTI. The test was to assess personality type and was fully developed after 30 years of research by Briggs Myers and thousands of others. In the 21st century, research on this instrument is still being put into action with dozens of articles written per year. The questionnaire is meant to help people realize their “best fit type”, the personality type that will help them succeed most in life.

The three original pairs of preferences in Jung’s typology are Extroversion and Introversion, Sensing and Intuition, and Thinking and Feeling.

After studying them, Briggs Myers added a fourth pair, Judging and Perceiving.

  • Extroversion or Introversion: refers to where and how one places his or her efforts in the world – with others in the outer world or alone in the inner world.
  • Sensing or Intuition: refers to how one takes in information – through five senses or through pattern.
  • Thinking or Feeling: refers to decision making – objectively or personal.
  • Judging or Perceiving: refers to how one lives and interaction with outer world – structured or flexible.


In the July 1980 edition of MBTI News, Briggs Myers attributed another reason for creating the MBTI to her marriage to “Chief” Clarence Myers.

Their differences in personality types (she was an INFP and he was an ISTJ) inspired her to keep studying differences among people and their actions.

When World War II came around, ‘Briggs Myers wanted to help stop conflict among people’. People were dying and hurting each other, and she wanted to help them understand each other instead. She observed that some people also hated their jobs in the military and desired to know what was behind that.

The Dean of the George Washington School of Medicine allowed Briggs Myers to apply the MBTI to their freshmen. It included about 5,500 students and she studied it for years by looking at patterns among dropouts and successful students.

Here is a brief history of Isabel Myers’ life and the development of the MBTI instrument excerpted from an article by Mary McCaulley, Ph.D., president and co-founder of the Center for Applications of Psychological Type (CAPT). This article first appeared in the July 1980 edition of MBTI News.

The difference between Isabel’s type preference (INFP) and Clarence’s type preference (ISTJ) was an important fact in the history of the MBTI. When asked once how she came to create the Indicator, Isabel Myers replied, ‘Because I married Chief.’  The difference between them was clear to Isabel’s mother when Chief was brought home to meet the family one Christmas vacation. Katharine Briggs concluded that her prospective son-in-law was an admirable young man, but not at all like others in their family. Katharine embarked on a project of reading biographies and developed her own typology based on patterns she found. She identified meditative types, spontaneous types, executive types, and sociable types (later identified as Is, EPs, ETJs and EFJs).

When Katharine Briggs discovered C. G. Jung’s book, Psychological Types, she reported to her daughter, ‘This is it!’ and proceeded to study the book intensely. Mother and daughter became avid ‘type watchers’ over the next twenty years.

Clarence and Isabel were married in 1918 and settled in Swarthmore, a suburb of Philadelphia where Clarence practiced law. Two children were born of the marriage. Peter Briggs Myers and Ann Myers Hughes. Ann died unexpectedly after minor surgery in 1972.

Isabel and Clarence had four grandchildren, Jonathan and Jennifer Myers, and Kathleen and Douglas Hughes.

When World War II began, Isabel Myers sought a way to help by finding a means for people to understand rather than destroy each other. In addition, she noticed many people taking jobs out of patriotism, but hating the tasks that went against their grain instead of using their gifts. She decided it was time to put Jung’s ideas about type to practical use.

A type indicator was needed.

In the next twenty years she carried on her activities in a way that was characteristic of her type.

An Introvert, she worked alone, taking each of Jung’s propositions seriously and finding ways from her own experience to use and extend them.

Her Extraverted Intuition was ever alert to new meanings, new patterns, new insights.

As she moved further into the intricacies of test construction, she harnessed her less preferred Sensing and Thinking preferences, using them consciously to further the goals of her dominant Feeling. A person who disliked detail in other areas, she would spend weeks and months scoring and analyzing data on thousands of cases to come up with one fact of interest.

Later in her life when she was in her seventies, she described the writing of the Manual and mentioned that she considered the criticisms a person with a Thinking preference would make, and then directed her own thinking to find an answer. An Extravert to whom she was speaking, said that if he wanted to know the criticisms of someone with a Thinking preference, he would not look into his own head. He would go find some thinkers, and ask them. Isabel looked startled and then amused.

Financially supported by her family, the work progressed for more than twenty years. She did not work entirely alone, however. Edward N. Hay, then head of personnel for a large Philadelphia bank, and later a well-known management consultant, let her work with the bank’s personnel tests to familiarize herself with test construction. Friends and family served as sources of items and helped test their validity. She persuaded principals of schools in eastern Pennsylvania to permit her to test thousands of students.

A major change in the development of the Indicator came when her father happened to mention his daughter’s work to the Dean of the George Washington School of Medicine, who permitted her to test the freshmen at his school. This was the beginning of a sample that eventually included 5,355 medical students, one of the largest longitudinal studies in medicine. This sample engaged her attention intermittently for years. She obtained data after four years and analyzed dropouts, and over- and under-achievers. She looked up the students after twelve years to see if they had chosen specialties to fit their types; they had. In 1964 she presented a paper on her findings in Los Angeles at the American Psychological Association. She never published her findings, but a monograph bringing together all the work on her medical study was prepared under government contract in 1977 and is available from CAPT.

By the time she presented the Los Angeles paper, she had also become interested in nursing and stopped at cities on her way home to persuade nursing schools to test their students. She ultimately collected a sample of over 10,000 nursing students from 71 diploma nursing schools and 670 of their faculty.

The reason Isabel Myers was especially interested in students in the health professions was that she believed accurate perception and informed judgment, i.e., good type development, are especially important in professionals who have others’ lives in their hands. She hoped the use of the MBTI in training physicians and nurses would lead to programs during medical school for increasing command of perception and judgment for all types, and for helping students choose specialties most suited to their gifts. She returned to the medical sample from time to time over a period of twenty-five years.

In the early days of the medical sample, Educational Testing Service (ETS) heard of the MBTI from a medical school dean. Henry Chauncey, then president of ETS, asked a psychologist on the staff, David Saunders, to investigate the MBTI. In 1962, ETS published the MBTI, strictly for research use, against objections of some of the staff. For the first time MBTI data would be on a computer and Isabel could try out more questions.

In the 1960s, several years after publication, Harold Grant, first at Auburn and later at Michigan State University, introduced many students to the MBTI, and a series of important basic studies were conducted under his guidance.

Slowly, the MBTI was being discovered.

The 1970s saw increasing appreciation of Isabel Myers’ work as faculty and students of the University of Florida began working with the Indicator.

For some time she visited the university several times a year, and she and Mary McCaulley, Ph.D., attended other professional meetings together. For the first time, she met and shared ideas with numbers of people who were using her work.

During this period, Isabel Myers and Dr. McCaulley collaborated on developing a program to test a large body of unpublished research whereby Isabel Myers hoped to individualize the Indicator, using MBTI response patterns to identify problems in use of perception and judgment; the goal of this work was to suggest next steps to further type development.

Individually and together they conducted pilot studies to test their program.

Three national MBTI conferences were held—the first at the University of Florida in 1975, the second at Michigan State University in 1977, and the third in Philadelphia in 1979.

Her health did not permit attendance in 1977, but Isabel Myers enjoyed the other two thoroughly, though at times she would be dismayed at the ways researchers treated her data.

‘I know Intuitive types will have to change the MBTI.’

That’s in their nature,  she would say. ‘But I do hope that before they change it, they will first try to understand what I did. I did have my reasons.’

In 1975, publication of the Indicator was assumed by CPP, Inc. For the first time, the MBTI was available as an instrument ready for use in helping people.

Despite failing health, from 1975 to 1979 Isabel re-standardized the MBTI and developed the shorter form, Form G, paying attention to every detail, including design of the new scoring keys. She also conducted a study aimed at refining MBTI scoring. She completed her book, Gifts Differing and had the pleasure of seeing the galley proofs in the last month of her life.

She remained actively interested in a chapter on the MBTI to appear in the next volume of Paul McReynolds’ Advances in Personality Assessment. Shortly before her death, she and Harold Grant worked out a plan for validation of her research to individualize the MBTI, using the longitudinal data at Auburn University, so that her many years of research on type development could be published and put to use.

In the last months of her life, when she spent much time sleeping or fighting fatigue, the sound of a theoretically interesting idea would cause her to sit bolt upright, her eyes sparkling, her incisive mind all curiosity and challenge. Throughout her research life, any mention of a sample in which members had high excellence or demonstrable problems set her off to study their answer sheets in search of response patterns that might predict their behavior.

Over the years she completed a number of what she called ‘little studies’ comparing criterion groups with base populations of hundreds or thousands, without help from computers.

In conversation, she was always appreciative and interested, never critical. It was not wise to be lulled into complacency by her warm approbation, however. If you used a negative adjective to describe a type, she gently substituted another adjective with the same intent, but with a neutral tone.

‘You mentioned pig headed. Did you mean firm?’


If you assumed she was talking ‘arm-chair’ philosophy on a point, you found there were months of work and analysis behind her statements. She cared deeply about her work and fought for it against all criticisms. If data showed her wrong, she was all attention. She now had a new problem to solve to improve the Indicator. She never ceased her search for perfection.

“I dream that long after I’m gone, my work will go on helping people.” -Isabel Myers, 1979

From small beginnings four decades earlier, through long, solitary years of painstaking research and development, Isabel Myers saw, at the end of her life, acceptance and appreciation of her work. Much more important to her was the certainty that what she had created would indeed go on to enrich millions of lives in the years to come.

12 Carl Jung QuotesCarl Gustav Jung was a psychiatrist, an influential thinker and the founder of Analytical Psychology.

  • Words are animals, alive with a will of their own.
  • All the works of man have their origin in creative fantasy. What right have we then to depreciate imagination.
  • The true leader is always led.
  • Children are educated by what the grown-up is and not by his talk.
  • Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.
  • Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.
  • Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.
  • Great talents are the most lovely and often the most dangerous fruits on the tree of humanity. They hang upon the most slender twigs that are easily snapped off.
  • If one does not understand a person, one tends to regard him as a fool.
  • It all depends on how we look at things, and not how they are in themselves.
  • Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness[s] of other people.
  • Astrology is assured of recognition from psychology, without further restrictions, because astrology represents the summation of all the psychological knowledge of antiquity.

The Meyers & Briggs Foundation

Isabel Briggs Myers Memorial Library
The Center for Applications of Psychological Type in Gainesville, Florida, houses the Isabel Briggs Myers Memorial Library, which is open to visitors during normal business hours. The library has the single largest collection of works on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator instrument in the world. The library houses many of the reference materials listed in the MBTI Bibliography.

 A Celebration of Women™ 

welcomes this considerate and motivated mind into our Alumni through this Celebration Tribute of her life,

one that has perhaps changed psychology perceptions forever.



Brava Isabel!


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