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Institute for Innovative Education

Records of Emil Oberholzer, M.D.


Emil Oberholzer was born on December 24, 1883 of Swiss parents at Zweibrücken in Germany, where his father managed a factory. He returned to Zurich with his parents while still a child. In 1902 Oberholzer began medical studies that he completed at Zurich in 1908. That same year he began training in psychiatry under Eugen Bleuler (1857-1939). Soon after, Oberholzer became Bleuler’s assistant at the Burghözli in Zurich, where he met his future wife Mira Ginzburg (1887-1949), also a physician. Between 1911 and 1916 Oberholzer was an assistant physician at the psychiatric clinic at Breitenau in Schaffhausen. In 1912 he travelled to Vienna to be analyzed by Sigmund Freud, whose ideas on psychoanalysis and dream analysis were adopted by Oberholzer.

Emil and Mira Oberholzer were both physicians at the sanatorium operated by Dr. Brunner in Küsnacht, south of Zurich, before establishing their own psychoanalytic practice in Zurich in 1919. Oberholzer joined the Zürcher Ortsgruppe affiliated with the International Psychoanalytic Society, and was a founding member of the Swiss Medical Society for Psychoanalysis. He was the Society’s first president (1919), an office he held until 1928. Emil Oberholzer and Hermann Rorschach (1884-1922) may have known one another during their student days. Back in Zurich, Oberholzer renewed his acquaintance with Rorschach and assisted in developing the shape interpretation test subsequently named for its inventor. After Rorschach’s death, Oberholzer became one of the major proponents of the Rorschach test in Europe and the United States. He edited for posthumous publication the second and later editions of Rorschach’s Psychodiagnostik (1st ed., Zurich, 1921), which was translated into several languages and enjoyed a successful publishing history on both sides of the Atlantic.

In 1938 Oberholzer emigrated to the United States out of concern for his Jewish wife and their son Emil Hermann (b. 1926). Though not licensed to practice medicine in New York State, the Oberholzers established a psychoanalytic practice in New York City, where, in 1941, Emil Oberholzer became a member of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. After the death of his wife Mira in 1949, Oberholzer increasingly isolated himself from friends and colleagues. Suffering from diabetes in these later years, he died in New York City on May 4, 1958.

The Records and their Arrangement

The Records of Emil Oberholzer, M.D. consist almost entirely of Rorschach tests administered and scored by Oberholzer between 1919 and 1957. The bulk of these records date from the 1920s and 1930s. In addition to test records, many of these files contain hand-written notes, typed analyses, and correspondence pertaining to the patient tested. Oberholzer arranged some of these records alphabetically by category of patient (e.g., Adolescents, Children), but most by the English-language name of the disorder diagnosed. Within each subject category, the records are arranged by patient.

Originally, Oberholzer stored these records in three-ring binders. Because of the deteriorating condition of the binders, Oberholzer’s test records have been removed from the binders and re-arranged in their original order in acid-free folders and boxes. An interesting exception to the subject arrangement of the collection are those files labelled by Oberholzer “Records used by H.R.” [i.e., Hermann Rorschach] (Boxes 56 & 57) and “Test records scored by Dr. Rorschach” (Box 57). Half a dozen books and pamphlets that came with the collection have been cataloged into the Miner Library’s Rare Book Collection.

The Oberholzer collection was presented to the Rare Books & Manuscripts Section of the Edward G. Miner Library in July 2007 by the Rev. Richard A. Henshaw, Ph.D., of Rochester, N.Y. Henshaw had been given these materials by Emil Oberholzer, Jr. Processing of the Records of Emil Oberholzer, M.D. was completed in October 2015. The collection numbers fifty-eight boxes occupying twenty-six linear feet.

Researchers should be aware of two other collections of material pertaining to Emil Oberholzer. The Hermann Rorschach Archives and Museum at the Universitätsbibliothek, Universität Bern, holds two boxes of Emil Oberholzer’s correspondence with Hermann Rorschach and others. The Kansas Historical Society, Topeka, Ks., holds eighteen cubic feet of professional and personal papers of Emil and Mira Oberholzer. The materials in Kansas include tests similar to those in Rochester, as well as research notebooks (some as early as his Breitenau clinic period), lectures notes, correspondence, certificates, diplomas, photographs, etc.

Emil Oberholzer

Emil Oberholzer photographed in New York

Container List

Box 1  

Folders 1-37: Adolescents 

Box 2  

Folders 1-19: Adolescents

Folder 20: Adolescents, Debilitated

Folder 21: Adolescents, Depressed

Folder 22: Adolescents, Hydrocephalus

Folders 23-36: Adolescents, Miscellaneous

Folders 37-45: Adolescents, Neurotic

Box 3  

Folders 1-9: Adolescents, Neurotic

Folder 10: Adolescents, Psychotic

Folders 11-14: Adolescents, Unintelligent

Folders 15-17: Affect – Shy

Folders 18-24: Affect – Emotive – Easily Aroused

Folders 25-41: Alcoholism

Folder 42: Alkoholparanoia

Box 4  

Folders 1-19: Aloof Ext.

Folders 20-30: Aloof Int.

Folders 31-40: Anxiety Conditions

Box 5  

Folders 1-31: Anxiety Conversion Hysteria

Box 6  

Folders 1-2: Anxiety Conversion Hysteria

Folders 3-30: Anxiety Hyst   

Box 7  

Folders 1-29: Anxiety Hyst

Folders 30-35: Anxiety Neurosis        

Box 8  

Folders 1-19: Anxious Character

Folders 20-24: Archaic

Folders 25-28: Archaic Syntomic

Folders 29-36: Artists not Normal

Box 9  

Folders 1-27: Breadth

Folders 28-40: Breadth, Normal

Box 10  

Folders 1-7: Breadth, Normal

Folders 8-16: Chiaroscuro

Folder 17: Children. Introductory notes for children

Folder 18: Children. Averages for children

Folder 19-24: Children. Indices and tables

Folder 25: Children. Class lists

Folders 26-34. Children. Records never filed

Box 11  

Folders 1-39: Children I

Folders 40-46: Children II

Box 12  

Folders 1-43: Children II

Box  13 

Folders 1-12: Children II

Folders 13-24: Children III

Folders 25-48: Children IV

Box 14  

Folders 1-51: Children IV   

Box 15   

Folders 1-7: Children IV

Folders 8-35: Children V

Folders 36-46: Children VI

Box 16  

Folders 1-44: Children VI   

Box 17

Folders 1-20 Children VI

Folders 21-32: Children O.O.N.R. I

Folders 33-38: Children O.O.N.R. II

Folders 39-46: Children O.O.N.R. III

Box 18   

Folders 1-15: Children O.O.N.R. III?-IV

Folders 16-31: Children O.O.N.R.  V

Folders 32-47: Children O.O.N.R. VI

Box 19

Folders 1-7: Children O.O.N.R. VI   

Folders 8-11: Cited in Articles

Folder 12: Conflict. Protocol and Psychogram

Folders 13-20: Conflict

Box 20    

Folders 1-12: Compulsion Neurosis

Folders 13-33: Compulsive Character. Coartated

Folders 34-36: Compulsive Character. Dilated

Box 21 

Folders 1-18: Compulsive Character. Dilated

Folders 19-28: Conversion Hysteria, A-B

Box 22  

Folders 1-34: Conversion Hysteria, C-S

Box 23   

Folders 1-10: Conversion Hysteria, V-W

Folder 11-23: Conversion Hysteria. Heart Neuroses

Box 24   

Folders 1-14: Dementia Praecox. Final Conditions

Folders 15-34: Dementia Precox. Insulin

Folders 35-47: Dementia Praecox. Cures and Remissions

Box 25  

Folders 1-14: Dementia Praecox. Form?

Folders 15-35: Dementia Praecox. With Imbecility

Folders 36-57: Dementia Simplex

Box 26   

Folders 1-17: Dementia Simplex

Folders 18-23: Depression 50-60 with Colour Shock

Folders 24-26: Depression 50-60 with Black Shock

Folders 27-32: Distrustful

Folders 33-40: Distrustful. Touchy, Irritable

Folder 41: Dream descriptions. Lauren H. Smith (1930)

Folder 42: Encephalosis

Box 27

Folders 1-10: Encephalosis & Epilepsy    

Folders 11-32: Epilepsy

Folder 33: Epilepsy Amb.

Folders 34-35: Epilepsy Ext.

Box  28

Folders 1-25: Epilepsy Ext

Folders 26-33: Epilepsy Ext. Tables; Special Cases

Folders 34-36: Epilepsy Int.

Box  29

Folders 1-6: Epilepsy, Jacksonian

Folders 7-17: Epilepsy and Dem, Pr’x or PN

Folders 18-25: Epilepsy and Hysteria

Folders 19-29: Epilepsy Traum.  

Folders 30-34: Epilepsy, Traum. Epilepsy with Colour

Box  30 

Folders 1-2: Epilepsy, Traum. Epilepsy with Color

Folders 3-7: Epileptoid

Folders 8-16: Habitually Submanic

Folders 17-35: Hebephrenia

Folders 36-39: Hysteria and Anxiety

Box 31

Folders 1-5: Infantile – Childish

Folders 6-7: Introversion

Folders 8-11: Introversion. Very Dilated Experience Type

Folder 12: Notes on Introversion Neurosis Psychasthenia

Folders 13-19: Introversion neuroses Psychasthenia

Folders 20-29: Irritable Explosive; Choleric Explosive

Folders 30-40: Katatonia: 1. Abulic; 2. Blocked

Box 32

Folders 1-25: Katatonia. 1. Abulic. 2. Blocked

Folders 26-65: Katatonia. Subacute and Chronic

Box 33   

Folders 1-47: Latent Dementia Praecox – Europe

Box 34 

Folders 1-31: Latent Dementia Praecox – Europe

Folders 32-49: Latent Dementia Praecox – U. S.

Box 35 

Folders 1-21: Latent Dementia Praecox – U.S.

Box 36 (empty)

Box 37 

Folders 1-39: Latent PN

Box 38 

Folders 1-22: Manic Depressive

Folders 23-32: Manic Depressive Supplement

Folders 33-34: Manic Depressive, Impressionable

Folders 35-43: Manic Depressive, Mixed

Box 39   

Folders 1-3: Manic Depressive, Mixed

Folders 4-8: Manic Depressive, Moody

Folders 9-19: Manic Depressive, Pedantic

Folders 20-24: Manic Depressive, Phlegmatic

Folders 25-32: Manic Depressive, Miscellaneous or Unspecified

Folders 33-38: Morally Light-Minded

Box 40   

Folders 1-13: Narcissistic-Ego Centric

Folder 14: Narcolepsy 

Folders 15-21: Neurasthenia

Folders 22-35: Neurotic Depression

Box 41 

Folders 1-18: Neurotic Depression

Folders 19-20: Neurotic Pervert

Folders 21-32: Normal, not Swiss

Box 42   

Folders 1-7: Normal – Not Swiss

Folders 8-19: Old Age

Box 43    

Folders 1-46: Paranoid

Folder 47: Paranoid, Alcoholism

Folder 48-49: Paranoid, Chronic

Folder 50: Paranoid Schizophrenia

Box 44 

Folders 1-30: Paranoid Supplement – Dr. Rohrschach’s Protocols

Folders 31-39: PN?

Folders 40-51: PN or Latent Demetia Praecox

Box  45

Folders 1-22 : PN Mixed   

Folders 23-37: Protocols that went askew and are not in their proper place

Box 46 (empty)

Box 47

Folders 1-23: Psychasthenia, Introv. Neur.

Folders 24-37: Psychogenic Reactive Depression

Box 48 

Folders 1-29: Psychopath

Box 49 

Folders 1-16: Psychopath

Folders 17-30: Psychopaths, Homosexuality

Folder 31: Psychopaths, Irritable Explosive

Box 50

Folders 1-11: Psychopaths, Morally Defective

Folders 12-21: Psychopaths, Perversion Neurotic

Folders 22-26: Psychopaths, Perverts

Folders 27-33: Rest.

Folders 34-36: Rest. I. Spontaneous Improvement

Box 51

Folders 1-3: Rest. I. Spontaneous Improvement

Folders 4-19: Rest. II. Anxiety Hystria. Conversion Hysteria

Folders 20-23: Rest. III. Comp. Neurosis. Comp Character

Folders 24-31: Rest. IV. Neuro Psychasthenia

Folders 32-34: Rest. V. PN Mixed. Latent PN

Folders 35-38: Restlessness of Anxiety Hysteria

Folder 39: Situative with Neurotic Reactions

Box 52

Folders 1-8: Situative with Neurotic Reactions

Folders 9-16: Somnnambulism

Folders 17-36: S (Space)

Box 53

Folders 1-22: Standard Female

Folders 23-43: Standard Male

Folder 44: Standard Notes and Table

Box 54

Folders 1-11: Standard Notes and Tables

Folders 12-15: Stoic Equinimity

Folders 16-22: Unfree Affectivity

Folders 23-32: Unique Unclassifiable

Folders 33-41: Useless

Box 55

Folders 1-21 : Not classified by disorder in original binders. Labelled “By Persons”

Folders 22-35: Not classified by disorder in original binders (dated 1920-1933)          

Box 56

Folders 1-10: Not classified by disorder in original binders (dated 1935-1957)

Folders 11-49: Records used by H.R. [Hermann Rorschach]

Box 57

Folders 1-25: Records used by H.R. [Hermann Rorschach]

Folders 26-74: Test records scored by Dr. Rorschach

Box 58

Two containers of Rorschach test cards used by Dr. Oberholzer

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Emil Oberholzer

Emil Oberholzer, M.D.