John Carson McGuire, educational psychologist, was born at Salmon Arm, British Columbia, on August 12, 1910. He attended high school there in 1926. The following year he enrolled in the University of British Columbia but transferred the next year to Vancouver's Provincial Normal School and began his teaching career. From 1928 to 1937 he taught school, served as a school principal, and simultaneously attended summer college classes. He returned to the University of British Columbia in 1937 as a full-time student and earned a B.A. degree with first-class honors in psychology and human biology in May 1939. In 1939 he served as a summer visiting professor at the University of British Columbia to supervise a "chilliwack project." This experimental program sought to administer public schools in a new, centralized fashion and contributed to the consolidation of more than 700 school districts in the province. After his service in the Royal Canadian Air Force (1942–45), McGuire joined the faculty of the University of Chicago as a university fellow; the following year he became an instructor and research associate. He taught graduate courses, assumed administrative duties for the Committee on Human Development, and participated in studies on adolescent development with R. J. Havighurst. He also participated in ground-breaking research on methods for the assessment of executive personality and behavior. He received his Ph.D. at UC in 1949.
Later that year he went to the University of Texas in Austin with an appointment as associate professor of educational psychology. There, his research on "catalytic" variables in the explanation of personality, learning, and human behavior took shape. Soon, he became consultant to the Human Resources Research Center at Lackland Air Force Base, the Cancer Patient Behavior Research Center at the M. D. Anderson Hospital for Cancer Research (see UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS M.D. ANDERSON CANCER CENTER), and the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. Most notably, McGuire implemented a program of interdisciplinary courses in the behavioral sciences that he modeled after those offered by the Committee on Human Development at the University of Chicago. These courses attracted many students and spurred the growth of the educational psychology department. McGuire successfully collaborated with colleagues from a variety of disciplines, however, and in his teaching he introduced aspects of developmental and social psychology, cultural anthropology, physiology, and genetics as a way to encourage students to develop interdisciplinary knowledge. In 1952 he was appointed professor of educational psychology. Two years later he founded the Laboratory of Human Behavior with a grant from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. In 1954 he became a United States citizen.
From 1957 to 1962 McGuire conducted the Human Talent Project on the basis of a grant from the United States Office of Education. He published his influential book Talented Behavior in Junior High Schools in 1960. He was an active researcher on the Mental Health in Teacher Education Project, sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health. In 1962 he was named director for research of the College of Education, and the following year he became coordinator of research development. In 1962 and 1963 he organized hearings before the United States Senate on the need for long-term, programmatic educational research, an effort that led to the establishment of the National Program of Educational Laboratories and Research and Development Centers. Subsequently, he helped found at UT one of nine federally funded research and development centers for teacher education. McGuire coauthored several books, wrote numerous chapters in yearbooks and other collections, and published dozens of articles in such scholarly journals as American Psychologist, Child Development, Journal of Educational Psychology, and Educational Leadership. He frequently presented papers at professional conferences on the national, regional, and state levels. He was also a highly acclaimed teacher who supervised forty-three doctoral dissertations during his tenure at UT. He served on the boards of various social agencies and of the Austin Symphony Society. He married Alice Brooks, who became a professor of library science at UT; they had one daughter. McGuire died in Austin on September 1, 1969.