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Mark Arthur May papers

Call Number: MS 1447

Scope and Contents

The papers are arranged in five series: Correspondence; Professional; Research and Work; Writings; and Photographs. The materials document the professional life of Mark May. May's interest in human behavior and concomitant research is evident throughout the collection. His career-long interest in education, especially character education and the use of films in the classroom is well documented, as is his service on the United States Advisory Commission on Information. There are also materials from his work for the armed forces during the two world wars. There is limited, but interesting, documentation of May's tenure at the Institute of Human Relations (IHR). For additional material on the IHR, researchers should consult YRG 37 Yale University Institute of Human Relations Records.


  • 1911-1978


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by Mark Arthur Mary has been transferred to Yale University. These materials may be used for non-commercial purposes without seeking permission from Yale University as the copyright holder. For other uses of these materials, please contact

Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of William W. May, 1986.


The papers are arranged in five series: I. Correspondence, 1918-1970. II. Professional Files, 1914-1978. III. Research and Work, 1918-1965. IV. Writings, 1911-1971. V. Photographs, n.d.


6.5 Linear Feet (16 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The collection contains correspondence, research files, writings, and photographs documenting the professional life of Mark Arthur May, educational psychologist.

Biographical / Historical

Mark Arthur May was an educational psychologist whose long career encompassed teaching, research, and administrative responsibilities. He was born on August 12, 1891 in Jonesboro, Tennessee. In 1911, he received an A.B. from Maryville College in Tennessee and, in 1912, he earned a Ph.B. at the University of Chicago. Following a period in which he pursued ministerial studies at the Union Theological Seminary, May entered Columbia University and earned a Ph.D. in psychology in 1917. During WorldWar I, May served in the United States Army and administered the Army's mental testing program.

In 1919, May accepted a professorship in psychology at Syracuse University where he became one of the key figures in the development of the psychology department. Thereafter, a collaborative projecton-themoralbehavior of children called the Character Education Inquiry, which May undertook as a research associate at Columbia University from 1924-1926, brought him greater recognition within the discipline. The Inquiry led to highly regarded published work on the nature ofmoral behavior among school children.

In 1927, May accepted a full professorship in educational psychology at Yale University, where he remained until he retired in 1960. Soon after his arrival at Yale, May became executive secretary and then director (1935-1961) ofthe University's Institute ofHuman Relations (IHR), work for which he became well known. The IHR was first organized in 1929 to further develop and integrate teaching and learning at Yale that pertained to the study of man. Under May's leadership, the Institute concentrated on developing a "base science ofhuman behavior and social life." In doing so, the Institute made important contributions to understanding juvenile delinquency, psychotherapy, cultural conflicts, child rearing, and education.

In addition to working for Yale, May was a scientific consultant to the War Department during World War II on matters ofpsychological warfare and the psychological effects ofweaponry. After the war, he was a member of the Advisory Commission on Information to the United States Information Agency (USIA) and became the Commission's chairman in 1952. The Commission was comprised ofpresidentialappointees. In its role as an independent oversight committee, it observed and assessed USIA information programs at home and abroad and reported its findings to Congress on a regular basis. May made several trips abroad as part ofhis work for the Commission, during which he developed and made use ofhis expertise in propaganda and propaganda techniques. May's life-long interest in films and their educational uses led him to chair the Teaching Films Custodians (TFC) from 1946 to 1958. TFC was a cooperative venture that combined the talents of educators and motion picture experts in the development of classroom films.

May was a productive and respected scholar who published a number of works during his career. Among the more notable are Education in the World of Fear (1941), A Social Psychology of War and Peace (1943), and Learning from Films (1957). He was a fellow of both the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was also a member of the National Academy of Education.

May married Ruby Charles in 1917. They had two children: Samuel Cassamere and Martha Norwood. May died in Manchester, New Hampshire on January 2, 1977.

Guide to the Mark Arthur May papers
Under Revision
July 2008
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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