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J Lacan

Well Known Figures in Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis Ireland


Well Known Figures in Psychoanalysis

Karl Abraham (1877 -1925)

Karl Abraham was born in Bremen, Germany and trained in medicine. He was a brilliant student and gained a post under Eugen Bleuler at the world-reknowned Burghölzli Mental Hospital near Zurich, Switzerland in 1901. There he met Jung and developed an interest in psychoanalysis that was to be lifelong. He met Freud in 1907 and was a guest of the Psychological Wednesday Society that met in Freud's apartments (the forerunner of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Society) and from then on conducted a correspondence with Freud (published as The Complete Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Karl Abraham 1907-1925) until his untimely death.
He gradually became dissatisfied with Jung's increasing theoretical diveregence from Freud, regarding him as showing tendencies that were unscientific and mystical. Taking up residence in Berlin in 1907, he became the first psychoanalyst in Germany and went on to analyse many who became major figures in the history of psychoanalysis, such as Melanie Klein, Karen Horney, Sandor Rado, Theodor Reik, Edward Glover, James Glover, and Helene Deutsch. He founded the Berlin Psychoanalytic Society in 1910.
Ernest Jones tells us that Abraham was level-headed, and the most 'normal' of the group known as 'the secret committee', who gathered round Freud at the height of hostilities with Jung. Jones further describes him as calm, steadfast, self-controlled, reserved, yet shrewd and full of common sense.
Alix Strachey took up her analysis with Abraham after she had attended Freud, and preferred Abraham, an opinion echoed by others. He was known as a clear-headed theoretician and persuasive lecturer, and his death was therefore a great loss in many ways to the psychoanalytic movement. Having been a sickly child, suffering from asthma, he had overcome this difficulty, becoming a proficient athlete by sheer dint of hard work and willpower. But in what was to be the last year of his life, he became ill with what was intitially diagnosed as bronchitis but proved to be lung cancer. When he died, a stricken Freud quoted Horace: Integer vitae scelerisque purus (The man of upright life and free from sin...).

Selected Works:
The Selected Papers of Karl Abraham (1949)
Further Reading:
Clinical Papers and Essays on Psychoanalysis (1955)
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