Nancy Bayley was born September 28th, 1899 in The Dalles, Oregon. The fourth of five children, she was often ill and didn't enroll in school until she was 8 years old. After she made up the time missed at school a high school friend inspired her to consider the possibility of attending college. Nancy's mother encouraged her to move away from home to go to school and rented out her room to help pay tuition. She attended the University of Washington - Seattle hoping to be an English teacher but after she was introduced to the Stanford-Binet IQ test by its creators, Nancy became interested in psychology. She was awarded her Bachelors Degree in 1922 and Masters Degree in 1924 from the University of Washington.
Upon graduating from the University of Washington, Nancy pursued her PhD in psychology at the University of Iowa. Although she did not receive much support from the department head, Nancy developed her interest in children while she worked in a university run nursery school. She graduated in 1926 from the University of Iowa. After graduating she became a professor teaching psychology at the University of Wyoming but only taught for two years. She was more interested in researching children. She felt that there was much to learn about them and the current methods were not reliable.
Following her interest in children, Nancy moved to Berkeley California in 1928 to join the newly organized Institute for Welfare (later called the Institute for Human Development) at the University of California, Berkeley. Her first project, The Berkeley Growth Study, investigated 61 healthy newborn infants. The study involved longitudinal research on behavior, motor coordination, IQ, physical development, maternal behavior on offspring, rates of physical maturing and body build (Corsini, 1984). Based on her work at the Institute for Human Development, Nancy published The California First Year Mental Scale (1933) and The California Infant Scale of Motor Development (1936) the precursors to her 1969 infant scales.
Between 1928 and 1954 Bayley also held multiple concurrent and alternant positions at Stanford University and the University of Maryland, however she returned to lecturing at the University of California in 1946 before moving Maryland in 1954. Nancy spent a decade at the National Institute of Mental Health at Bethesda MD as the Chief of the section on Child Development (APA, 1966). Although she resided in Maryland she still maintained her position at the University of California, Berkeley as a research psychologist and administrator of the Harold E. Jones Child Study Center of the Institute of Human Development.
She returned to UCB in 1964 to follow up on the subjects of her infant study (1928) and retired in 1968. Following her retirement from the University of California Berkeley, Bayley published the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, a device that measures the growth of infants from 2-30 months of age. Considered the best device at the time to study young children (Anastasi, 1982; Kaufman and Kaufman, 1977; Sattler, 1982) the Bayley Scales of Infant Development is still used in research today.
Nancy Bayley received multiple honors and awards, including the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award (1966-she was the first woman to receive this award) and as of 1973, authored, co-authored or contributed to over 115 publications (Cattell, 1973).