Entries for month: March 2018

Peter Myers: In Memoriam

Peter Briggs Myers, a physicist and co-owner and developer of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®), a widely used personality type assessment, died peacefully at age 91, surrounded by family members in St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Towson, Maryland on February 17th. He was a truly gifted man with a generous heart. Those of us who knew and loved him will sorely miss his insight, wisdom and caring.

Peter Myers

Mr. Myers, a Rhodes scholar who held a doctorate in nuclear physics from the University of Oxford, was the son of Clarence Gates Myers and Isabel Briggs Myers. Isabel and her mother, Katharine Cook Briggs, created the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator instrument as a practical application of the personality type theory of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, beginning their work in the 1940s.

When Isabel Myers died in 1980, she left the copyright to the MBTI to her son Peter and his then wife, Katharine Downing Myers. At the time of Isabel Myers’s death, the instrument was not yet widely known although she had worked on its development for more than forty years with support from the Educational Testing Service.

Peter and Katharine spent the next several decades ensuring the scientific rigor and overseeing the continued development of the assessment, along with the publisher CPP, Inc., now based in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Today the MBTI instrument has been taken by millions of people around the world to help them better understand themselves and others and is in use by 88 of the Fortune 100 companies. The instrument has been translated into more than 25 languages and its use overseas has grown rapidly including Europe, Asia, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand.

Peter and Katharine helped to fund the Center for Applications for Psychological Type® (CAPT®), in Gainesville, Florida, a nonprofit started by Isabel Myers and a colleague and it continues to provide research and training in the use of the MBTI. They also established a non-profit, the Myers & Briggs Foundation that funds research on type and its application.

Imposing, at 6’4” tall with a soft measured voice and a slow speaking delivery, Peter often gave speeches on type at conferences and worked closely with the publisher of the MBTI well into his eighties.

He was born on April 24, 1926. He enrolled in George Washington University before enrolling in a Navy program for engineers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He spent seven months on a Navy submarine, the USS Sanborn, and later entered Oxford as a Rhodes scholar in September, earning his doctorate in nuclear physics from Oxford in 1950.

He was highly influenced by his maternal grandfather, Lyman J. Briggs, who served as a scientific advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt and was appointed director of the National Bureau of Standards by Roosevelt in 1933. Roosevelt also appointed Lyman Briggs as chair of an Advisory Committee on Uranium, linked to the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb.

Peter married Elizabeth “Betty” Monk on July 28, 1948 and began work as a physicist on transistors and semiconductor devices in the Switching Research Department of the Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. The couple later moved to southern California where Peter was employed by Magnavox Research Laboratories for more than ten years, working on radio and satellite navigation. They divorced in 1971.

Peter soon married Katharine Downing Heisler, his high school sweetheart, and moved to the Washington area where he had been reassigned by Magnavox. He then joined the National Academy of Sciences, where he served as Bureau Director of Radioactive Waste Management. In that capacity, he headed a scientific committee to determine long-term storage of radioactive waste, retiring in his early 70s. When his mother developed cancer, Peter Myers helped author her main book on type, “Gifts Differing.” The book offers an in-depth explanation of the MBTI’s 16 personality types. He also cared for his father, known as “Chief”, a partner in the Philadelphia law firm of Duane, Morris and Heckscher.

An avid sailor, Peter grew up sailing on Lake George in upstate New York and in recent years, sailed on his beloved wooden ketch, “Sea Cloud.” He loved the wilderness: He was an Eagle Scout as a youth and for many years was a Sierra Club leader, leading many river trips down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. He contributed generously to multiple charities throughout his life and is leaving a large bequest to Oxford University.

He once rescued Albert Einstein on Saranac Lake in Massachusetts, as described in Katharine and Isabel, Mother’s Light, Daughter’s Journey, The Story of the Making of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator by Frances Wright Saunders. Peter had taken a canoe out on the lake when the water became choppy and he noticed a small sailboat with a single sailor who was desperately trying to lower the sail.

Peter paddled up next to the man and held the tiller, allowing the man to lower the sail. When the man turned around, he realized to his delight it was his hero Albert Einstein. Peter paddled both of them to shore with Einstein holding the bow of the canoe after which Einstein invited him back to their cottage to dry out and have a cup of tea. Einstein turned out to know Peter’s grandfather, the physicist Lyman J. Briggs.

Peter Myers

Peter leaves behind his son, Jonathan Briggs Myers, a coffee grower in Hawaii, and two daughters, Jennifer Myers Yerkes, a homemaker, and Michele Heisler, a physician and professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He also leaves three stepchildren, Roly, Hugh and Katie Heisler, five grandchildren and one great grandchild.

His niece and nephew, Kathleen Hughes, a freelance writer and former staff reporter for the Wall Street Journal, and Douglas Hughes, a lawyer, also survive him. They are the children of Peter’s sister, Ann Myers Hughes, who died in 1972. He is also survived by his partner, Jane “Emma” Mannes, who lived with him in his last years at Blakehurst Retirement Center in Towson, Maryland.


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