Polygraphy, commonly known as lie detection, began its scientific journey in the late 1800s. For more than 150 years, this field has evolved, reflecting the intricate dance between science and technology. The early devices, powered by analog mechanisms, stand in stark contrast to today’s sophisticated software-driven instruments. However, the origins of polygraphy in America are rooted in the pioneering efforts of individuals in the early 20th century, with William Marston leading the way.
The Enigmatic William Moulton Marston
Marston’s roots trace back to Cliftondale, Saugus, Massachusetts, where he was born in 1893. While his achievements in polygraph science are commendable, his broader claim to fame lies in the creation of the iconic superheroine, “Wonder Woman,” under his pseudonym, Charles Moulton.
A multi-faceted individual, Marston delved into the study of psychology and introduced the prototype of a lie detector. His work on the relationship between systolic blood pressure and deception detection paved the way for John A. Larson’s subsequent innovations. Additionally, Marston’s personal life was as colorful as his professional endeavors, involving a polyamorous relationship with his wife, Elizabeth Holloway, and their partner, Olive Byrne.
From Harvard to Hollywood
A Harvard alumnus, Marston’s academic credentials included degrees in Arts, Law, and Psychology. His tryst with the creative world began early, with his script, “The Thief,” being adapted into a film in 1913. His career saw him traverse from teaching to public service and eventually into the cinematic world in California.
In Pursuit of Deception Detection
Marston’s foray into deception detection was, interestingly, spurred by a casual observation by his wife about her blood pressure. This led Marston to investigate the link between lying and blood pressure fluctuations, culminating in the invention of the “systolic blood pressure test.” His methods, while revolutionary, were met with skepticism in some quarters. Despite some pushback, Marston’s tests reportedly found application during World War I and laid the groundwork for future lie detection technologies.
Inspiring the Future
John A. Larson’s polygraph device, built on Marston’s foundational work, integrated pulse and respiration measurements. This evolution of polygraphy would subsequently influence Leonard Keeler, who further refined the technology. However, it was Marston’s groundbreaking work that set the stage for these advancements.
The Wonder Woman Legacy
Marston’s love for storytelling and his passion for truth converged in the creation of “Wonder Woman.” The superheroine’s “Lasso of Truth,” an instrument that compels honesty, reflects Marston’s lifelong quest for the truth, both in scientific and fantastical realms. The character’s stories, rooted in themes of submission, dominance, and liberation, echoed Marston’s psychological studies and personal beliefs.
Marston’s personal relationships also influenced Wonder Woman’s lore. While his wife Elizabeth purportedly suggested the idea for the character, Marston often credited Olive Byrne, with whom he shared a deep bond, as his muse.
The End of an Era
Marston’s life, rich in innovation and creativity, was tragically cut short by cancer in 1947. Despite his demise, his legacies in both polygraph science and pop culture live on. Wonder Woman remains a stalwart figure in the comic world, and Marston’s life and times were captured in the 2017 film, “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women.”
In summary, William Moulton Marston’s contributions to polygraph science and popular culture underscore the potential of interdisciplinary endeavors. His life serves as a testament to the power of curiosity, perseverance, and creativity.
Originally posted 2023-09-20 12:29:10.