(Fall, 1999, p. 14); copyright 1999 by
The Nature Institute
Kurt Goldstein (A Biographical Note)
Kurt Goldstein was born on November 6, 1878, the seventh of nine children (4). The Jewish family lived in Upper Silesia, today Poland. A quiet and shy boy, Kurt was known as "the professor" for his love of books. He began the study of philosophy when he entered the University, but soon took up medicine, receiving his M.D. in 1903.
While working at a psychiatric clinic in Königsberg from 1906 to 1914, he was disappointed at how little real treatment the patients received. So he began a life-long work of careful observation and treatment of individuals with psychiatric and neurological disorders. During World War I he built up what was to become a renowned clinic for brain-damaged soldiers, which he directed until 1930. He published widely and was a well-known and respected figure, not only in the international neurological community, but also among psychologists and philosophers, interacting primarily with Gestalt psychologists and phenomenologists.
When Hitler took power in 1933 Goldsteina Jewwas briefly jailed and then forced to leave the country. The Rockefeller Foundation supported him for a year in Amsterdam. During this year he wrote his monumental work Der Aufbau des Organismus, published a year later in Germany and in 1939 in America as The Organism (1). This book, written by the fifty-five-year-old Goldstein, was the mature fruit of decades of work.
Goldstein emigrated to the United States in 1935, where he lived and worked until his death in 1965. He never felt quite at home in America or in the English language, although he became an American citizen in 1940. Nonetheless Goldstein remained highly productive and worked at various universities and clinicsColumbia, Harvard, Tufts, Brandeisuntil shortly before his death.
Robert Ulich, a Harvard professor and colleague, described a visit to the elderly Goldstein:
He looked at the mystery of individual being as embedded in the greater mystery of the totality of Being. The visible and comprehensible in the cosmos of things pointed, so he thought, at the invisible and incomprehensible sources of the creation, and he fully accepted the dictum of Goethe (who was to him the consummation of wisdom) that we should courageously explore the explorable but stand in awe before the inexplorable.... I left him, feeling inspired at having been in the presence of a great man, a man whose insight and mature serenity had enabled him to combine into a noble synthesis the many antitheses of human existence. Goethe, so it seemed to me, had returned to him. I heard later that he often asked his cousin to read to him from Goethe's works. (5)Kurt Goldstein died on September 19, 1965.
See accompanying article for references.
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