George Kelly was a famous psychologist who lived from 1905 to 1967. His most famous accomplishment is his 1955 book “The Psychology of Personal Constructs”, which popularized his theory known as the “Fruitful Metaphor”. At the heart of this theory was the notion that psychologists and other psychotherapists tend to look down on their patients, feeling as if they are somehow superior to them, and this debilitates the healing process.
The theory may have stemmed in part from George’s upbringing. As an only child who was born to a Presbyterian minister and a school teacher in Kansas, George spent a great deal of his youth pursuing his education. Most of his interactions were with down-to-earth, ‘country folk’, living in a community where people helped each other rather than judging each other.
As George continued to pursue his education, earning a B.A. in Physics and Mathematics, a B.Ed. from Edinburgh University and a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Iowa, he began to run in more elite circles. He began to notice that an elitist attitude tended to coincide with his new social group, and this disturbed him.
George was not interested in catering to the rich and famous type of client. He wanted to give back to the types of rural communities that he had grown up in. So he created the ‘traveling clinic’ in which he and four of his students traveled around Kansas offering counseling and therapy to rural men, women and children.
The famous psychologist also taught public speaking courses in Minnesota, oversaw psychological counseling programs for World War II Navy fliers, and served as the Professor and Director of Clinical Psychology at Ohio State University, among numerous other accomplishments. It was at Ohio State University that he began to truly delve into and develop his theories, which he ultimately published in a two volume set. He called the book “The Psychology of Personal Constructs” due to his interests in the differing construction of realities that he noticed when he was developing his “Fruitful Metaphor Theory”.
George Kelly passed away on March 6, 1967 of unspecified causes. He is buried in Walnut Grove Cemetery in Worthington, Ohio, but his work in psychology, personality theory, and reality constructs continues to live on. He may not be as famous as some of his legendary colleagues like Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, but he undeniably left his mark on the field of psychology.