The Rise Of The Myers-Briggs, Chapter 2: Isabel

Isabel turns her mother’s philosophy into a marketable product.

painted portrait of a young white girl with brown hair iand ribbons in a high-collared white dress against a wine-colored paper-textured background
Portrait of Isabel Briggs Myers, by Kay Wasil

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At first, it seemed like Isabel Briggs Myers would have nothing to do with personality typology. That was her mother Katharine’s passion project, not hers. But when Isabel enters a tumultuous marriage, she discovers that her mother’s gospel of type might just be the thing to save it. 

In Chapter 2, Isabel picks up her mother’s work, and decides to transform it into a marketable product—but first, she has to convince a group of skeptical PhDs that it actually works. Along the way, one particularly dogged researcher notices some issues with her indicator, threatening to undo everything she’d worked for.

If you’re new to the series, listen to Chapter 1.

Read a transcript of this episode.


Merve Emre is a writer and English professor at the University of Oxford.

Footnotes & Further Reading:

Read Merve Emre’s book, ​​The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing.


This episode was produced by Johanna Mayer, Chris Egusa, and Senior Producer Elah Feder. Our music was composed by Daniel Peterschmidt, who also mastered this episode and helped with archival research. We had fact checking help from Cosmo Bjorkenheim. Peter Geyer provided us with archival audio. Nadja Oertelt is our Chief Content Officer.

Meet the Writers

About Johanna Mayer

Johanna Mayer is a podcast producer and hosted Science Diction from Science Friday. When she’s not working, she’s probably baking a fruit pie. Cherry’s her specialty, but she whips up a mean rhubarb streusel as well.

About Elah Feder

Elah Feder is the former senior producer for podcasts at Science Friday. She produced the Science Diction podcast, and co-hosted and produced the Undiscovered podcast.

About Christopher Egusa

Christopher Egusa is a reporter and an Audio Engineering Fellow at KALW Public Radio.

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