"Finally, I decided to take the plunge," Henry Chauncey wrote in his diary on Sunday, February 4, 1945, a few days before his fortieth birthday, and so a natural day for assessing the course of his life. "From a safe and respected job I am embarking on an opportunity whose development depends very much on what I do." The safe and respected job was an assistant deanship at Harvard, where he had been working as an administrator for fifteen years; the opportunity was a position in the nascent field of educational testing, where Chauncey would be in on the founding of an organization that could, he thought, in effect serve as the personnel office of the postwar United States, using multiple-choice mental tests to assess large segments of the civilian population for the first time in the country's history.
Chauncey, descended from clergymen (his father was an Episcopalian minister, his ancestors Puritans), went to church, and afterward he added to the day's diary entry:
During Church this morning a thought occurred to me which though not new was amplified in its implications.... As soon as we can put in numerical terms the needs for individuals in different types of employment, nationally and locally, we will be able to embark through appropriate tests on a census of the population in relation to those jobs.... Since we do not want to prescribe what a person should do we can indicate to the boy or girl the probability of success or failure in each field of work and the demand for people of his combination of abilities.... This project requires consideration from a lot of angles but men of vision in the field of testing, vocational guidance, government, economics, education could be consulted individually and eventually in groups and a program eventually developed. Men with whom this might be discussed might even be so high in authority as ... President Roosevelt himself.