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Emil Oberholzer, M.D.

Biography

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.

Organization of the Collection

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.

Photograph of 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