William Moulton Marston, known by the pen name Charles Moulton, was born on 9 May 1893 in Saugus, Massachusetts, to Frederick William Marston and Annie Dalton.
Not much is known about his early life, but there is much information regarding his college days at Harvard University. Marston received his education from Harvard, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1915, an LLB in 1918, and a Ph.D. in psychology in 1921.
In 1915, the same year he graduated from Harvard, Marston married a Mt. Holyoke graduate named Elizabeth Holloway. She is said to have suggested a connection between emotion and blood pressure to William. Apparently, her suggestion led to a great invention.
Elizabeth told William that when she became mad or excited, her blood pressure started to climb. Marston realized that there was a correlation between lying and blood pressure. He invented the systolic blood pressure test, which became one component of the modern polygraph invented by John Augustus Larson. He found that when a person lies, their blood pressure tends to increase.
He tried to convince the public of the lie detector’s infallibility and in 1923 he also tried to have his machine admitted as evidence in courts of law. His attempts were unsuccessful and the courts refused to endorse the idea.
He worked as a professor at various universities, including Tufts and American Universities, developing his DISC Theory. In 1928, he published Emotions of Normal People, elaborating his theory, which broke personality down into four quadrants: dominance, influence, steadiness, and compliance.
William was not just an inventor and psychologist, he was also a writer. Comics publisher Max Gaines hired him as an educational consultant for National Periodicals and All-American Publications, two of the companies that would later merge to form DC Comics.
At the time when the DC Comics line was dominated by superpower-endowed male characters such as Superman and Batman, he was inspired to create a female superhero, Wonder Woman, under the pen name “Charles Moulton.”
Wonder Woman emerged on the scene in December 1941 in issue #8 of All Star Comics. Wonder Woman was a native of an all-female utopia of Amazons who became a crime-fighting U.S. government agent. She wields the Lasso of Truth and she is full of will and power.
The four quadrants of his Marston’s DISC Theory (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance) were also incorporated into her personality.
Both Max Gaines of DC Comics and William Moulton Marston were not absolutely certain how a female heroine would be received but Wonder Woman ended up being a huge success.
Marston wrote Wonder Woman until 1947, when he died of skin cancer at age 53.