Kurt Goldstein bigraphy, stories - German neurologist

Kurt Goldstein : biography

November 6, 1878 - September 19, 1965

Kurt Goldstein (November 6, 1878September 19, 1965) was a German Jewish neurologist and psychiatrist who was a pioneer in modern neuropsychology. He created a holistic theory of the organism based on Gestalt theory which deeply influenced the development of Gestalt therapy. His most important book in German Der Aufbau des Organismus (1934) has been published again in English: The Organism (1995) with an introduction by Oliver Sacks.

Goldstein was co-editor of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology.


Kurt Goldstein was born in Kattowitz, Germany in 1878 into a large Jewish family. After his initial education at the gymnasium, he briefly studied philosophy at the University of Heidelberg before moving to the University of Breslau where he studied medicine. At Breslau, Goldstein studied under Carl Wernicke. In 1914 Ludwig Edinger invited Goldstein to the Senckenbergisches Neurologisches Institut at the University of Frankfurt, and after Edinger's death in 1918, Goldstein assumed the role of professor of neurology in 1923.

During World War I, Goldstein took advantage of the large number of traumatic brain injuries at the clinic and established The Institute for Research into the Consequences of Brain Injuries in close cooperation with Adhémar Gelb, a gestalt psychologist. It was here that he developed his theory of brain-mind relationships. He applied the figure-ground principle from perception to the whole organism, presuming that the whole organism serves as the ground for the individual stimulus forming the figure - thus formulating an early criticism of the simple behavioristic stimulus-response-theory.

In 1926 Fritz Perls became his assistant for a year, and Lore Posner studied gestalt psychology with Gelb. Perls and Posner married in 1930, and began developing Gestalt therapy. Goldstein's research and theory had a considerable influence on the formation of this new psychotherapy.

In 1930, Goldstein accepted a position at the University of Berlin. In 1933, the Nazis came to power and Goldstein was arrested and imprisoned in a basement. After a week, he was released on the condition that he would agree to leave the country immediately and never return.

For the next year, he lived in Amsterdam, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, and wrote his master opus, The Organism.

Goldstein emigrated to the USA in 1935 and became a citizen of the US in 1940. His wife Eva Rothmann was the daughter of Berlin neuroanatomist Max Rothmann.

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Living octopus

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