Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

FW: ANB - Bio of the Day [Clarence Paul Obendorf]

Expand Messages
  • A.J. Wright
    Interesting Alabama connection here....aj wright // ajwright@uab.edu ... From: biod-request@www.anb.org [mailto:biod-request@www.anb.org] Sent: Friday, October
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 24, 2002
      Interesting Alabama connection here....aj wright // ajwright@...

      -----Original Message-----
      From: biod-request@... [mailto:biod-request@...]
      Sent: Friday, October 18, 2002 1:00 AM
      To: ANB bioday mailing list
      Subject: ANB - Bio of the Day

      American National Biography Online

      Oberndorf, Clarence Paul (16 Feb. 1882-30 May 1954), psychiatrist
      and psychoanalyst, was born in New York City, the son of Joseph
      Oberndorf, a prosperous merchant, and Augusta Hammerstein. Oberndorf's
      father, a scholarly man, had been a schoolteacher in Bavaria,
      but after immigrating to America at the age of thirteen he had
      established himself as a merchant in Selma, Alabama. Oberndorf
      first attended the Dallas Academy in Selma, then continued his
      education at Public School 69 in New York, having moved with
      his family to the city at age eleven following the death of his
      father from cancer. After living for a year in Munich, Germany,
      the family returned to New York, where the fifteen-year-old Oberndorf
      entered Mount Morris State High School in the Bronx. In high
      school Oberndorf began what he called his career as a "frustrated
      journalist" with regular contributions to the local newspaper
      about school activities.

      After reading Balzac's Country Doctor, Oberndorf determined
      to become a doctor and eventually enrolled at Cornell University,
      with the support of a scholarship. He was editor of the Cornell
      Era in his junior year. Adolf Meyer's lectures at Cornell inspired
      Oberndorf's interest in psychiatry during his senior year. Upon
      graduating in 1906 with a medical degree, he took a two-year
      internship at Bellevue Hospital, followed by training in European
      psychiatric hospitals--first at the Charite Hospital in Berlin,
      then at Emil Kraepelin's clinic in Munich, where he first heard
      of the work of Sigmund Freud. He returned to America in 1909
      and took up his first appointment as psychiatric resident at
      the Manhattan State Hospital on Ward's Island, where Meyer was
      director of the Psychopathological Institute and the new "dynamic
      psychiatry" (psychoanalysis as applied to psychiatric cases)
      had gained acceptance. within five months Oberndorf had opened
      a private practice devoted to dynamic psychiatry, and his lifelong
      career as a psychoanalyst began.

      The young psychiatrist shared his enthusiasm for psychoanalysis
      with his friend and fellow psychiatrist Abraham A. Brill, and
      in 1911 they founded the New York Psychoanalytic Society, of
      which Oberndorf was president from 1917 to 1920. Convinced of
      the value of psychoanalysis for psychiatry in general, Oberndorf
      persuaded the directors of Mount Sinai Hospital to start an outpatient
      clinic for psychiatric disorders, where he successfully combined
      the services of psychiatrists and psychoanalysts in the psychiatric
      treatment of social problems. Oberndorf's clinic pioneered the
      practice of community psychiatry and was soon duplicated at other
      hospitals. During his time at Mount Sinai Hospital, Oberndorf
      helped establish, in 1919, the Society for Mental Hygiene among
      Jews, which founded the Hillside Hospital on Long Island a few
      years later; Oberndorf remained a consulting psychiatrist and
      director of the hospital until his death. His interest in journalism
      met reward when, under the auspices of the International Psychoanalytic
      Association, he was made associate editor of the International
      Journal of Psycho-Analysis, a position he held from its founding
      in 1920 until his death. Having been analyzed by Freud during
      a five-month stay in Vienna in 1921, Oberndorf became responsible
      for teaching at the New York Psychoanalytic Society, where he
      organized the first formal psychoanalytic training program in
      America. To provide financial support for candidates, he and
      Brill established an educational trust fund that eventually became
      the American Psychoanalytic Foundation. In 1927, when the International
      Psychoanalytic Association sought to establish standard training
      procedures throughout its member societies, Oberndorf was among
      the American delegation that argued for the exclusion of nonmedical
      persons from training. As an opponent of so-called lay analysis,
      Oberndorf was one of those responsible for the strong connection
      between medicine and psychoanalysis in the United States.

      Over the course of his life Oberndorf maintained a lively private
      practice and held many important administrative positions, including
      the presidencies of the American Psychoanalytic Association (1924
      and 1936), the New York Society for Clinical Psychiatry (1938-1940),
      the New York Neurological Society (1943), and the American
      Society (1953-1954). In addition to his associate editorship
      of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, Oberndorf helped
      to edit the Psychoanalytic Review from 1937, and the American
      Journal of Psychiatry, from 1948. His many publications include
      more than 120 clinical and historical papers on medicine and
      psychoanalysis and a detailed History of Psychoanalysis in America
      (1953). Oberndorf's psychoanalytic writings addressed a wide
      range of topics from depersonalization to the results of psychoanalytic
      psychotherapy. Although he recognized, through his research on
      therapeutic outcomes, that results depended more on the individual
      therapist than on the specific technique in which he or she was
      schooled, he remained an orthodox Freudian to the end. Oberndorf
      expressed his literary character through his writings on the
      psychiatric novels of Oliver Wendell Holmes and his own attempts
      at similar fictional work, including a collection of psychoanalytic
      short stories published in 1948. Known affectionately to his
      friends and colleagues as "Obey," Oberndorf had a reputation
      as a warm and kindly man. About his lifework in psychiatry he
      wrote, "The healing side of medicine, which is both a science
      and an art, has always absorbed my attention. It seems to me
      that above all the minister, the teacher and the physician are
      persons whose aim should be to alleviate suffering expeditiously
      and gently" (quoted in obituary, Psychoanalytic Quarterly, p. 428).

      Oberndorf's contribution to psychoanalysis, though more organizational
      than scientific, cannot be underestimated. As one of the pioneers
      of psychoanalysis in America, as teacher, administrator, and
      editor, he promoted the cause of psychoanalysis as a special
      branch of psychiatry for more than fifty years. He never married
      and had no children. He died in New York City.


      Many of Oberndorf's papers concerning the early organization
      of psychoanalysis are in the archives at the Abraham A. Brill
      Library of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute. Among Oberndorf's
      own publications, the most significant is A History of Psychoanalysis
      in America (1953); a shorter essay, "Psychiatry at Ward's Island
      40 Years Ago," Psychiatric Quarterly 24 (1950): 1-10, offers
      a detailed picture of a psychiatric hospital around 1910. His
      monograph The Psychiatric Novels of Oliver Wendell Holmes (1943)
      is complemented by his short stories collected in Which Way Out
      (1948). His autobiographical notes remain unpublished but are
      mentioned in a detailed obituary in Psychoanalytic Quarterly
      23 (1954): 424-33, which includes a bibliography. Another obituary,
      in International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 36 (1955): 210-13,
      lists his many appointments.

      Gail Donaldson

      Back to the top

      Gail Donaldson. "Oberndorf, Clarence Paul";
      American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.
      Access Date:
      Copyright (c) 2000 American Council of Learned Societies. Published
      by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.

      Note: This email has been sent in plain text format so that it may be
      read with the standard ASCII character set. Special characters and
      formatting have been normalized.

      Copyright Notice
      Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of the
      American National Biography of the Day and Sample Biographies provided
      that the following statement is preserved on all copies:

      From American National Biography, published by Oxford University
      Press, Inc., copyright 2000 American Council of Learned Societies.
      Further information is available at http://www.anb.org

      American National Biography articles may not be published commercially
      (in print or electronic form), edited, reproduced or otherwise altered
      without the written permission of Oxford University Press which acts as
      an agent in these matters for the copyright holder, the American Council
      of Learned Societies. Contact: Permissions Department, Oxford University
      Press, 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016; fax: 212-726-6444.

      To unsubscribe please send an email message (from the account that you wish
      to unsubscribe) to biod-request@... and include the word "remove" in
      the subject line.
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.