Kurt Goldstein

1878-1965

Contributions: The organismic approach to aphasia, where symptoms regarded as part of the whole organism, including personality, biology, and reaction to the particular situation. Abstract attitude-the ability to form abstract and logical concepts, often affected in aphasia. Catastrophic reaction-a breakdown in patients resulting from inability to cope with situational demands.

Kurt Goldstein was a German-Jewish physician and psychiatrist. He was born at Katowitz, Upper Silesia, now part of Poland, and was educated at Breslau and Heidelberg. He received his medical degree from the University of Breslau in 1903. Goldstein's doctoral dissertation was on the structure of the posterior columns of the spinal cord.

His interest in aphasia was kindled by Carl Wernicke, whom Goldstein assisted for a short time during his medical training. His knowledge of neuropathology was from Ludwig Edinger (1955-1918) who was Goldstein's teacher at a Neurological institute in Frankfort Germany.

Goldstein taught at the Universities of Frankfurt, Berlin, Columbia, Harvard and Brandeis and practiced neurological and psychiatric medicine in hospitals in Europe and the United States.

Goldstein started a clinic at Lazarett Hospital, Frankfurt Germany, and served as the director from 1916 to 1933. (For more on this hospital, see Anne Harrington, 1996. Reenchanted science: Holism in German culture from Wilhelm II to Hitler, Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 145-146). Goldstein worked here with Adhemar Gelb a psychologist with gestalt leanings. Their collaboration resulted in sixteen papers, among the best known was one reporting a case of visual agnosia (mind blindness), that the authors attributed to the person's problems with Gestalt formation of visual images.

During World War I, Goldstein was Director of the Military Hospital for Brain-Injured Solders. This experience led to him writing a book on the after-effects of brain injuries. Following the war Goldstein became Director of the Moabit Hospital in Berlin. At this time he became Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the University of Berlin.

He left there because of anti-semitism and went to the University of Amsterdam in 1933 where he wrote his famous book called "The Organism." After a year, Goldstein imigrated to America. He worked at the Psychiatric Institute in New York City and established relations with Columbia University. He worked at Montefiore Hospital as Attending Neurologist. He developed a laboratory of neurophysiology there and was chief until 1940. From 1940 to 1945, Goldstein served as Clinical Professor of Neurology at Tufts Medical School in Boston, under the auspices of a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Thereafter he returned to NYC and engaged in private practice.

Goldstein had a holistic theory of the human organism, one that challenged reductivist approaches and approaches that dealt with "localized" symptoms. He influenced Merleau-Ponty, Canguilhem, Cassirer, Binswanger and field of Gestalt psychology (from book cover of "The Organism" and Gregory's Oxford Companion of the mind, 1987).

Articles and books about Goldstein

Freiman, I. S. (1954). Kurt Goldstein--An appreciation. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 8, 3-10.

Geschwind, N. (1974). The paradoxical position of Kurt Goldstein in the history of aphasia. In N. Geschwind (Ed.), Selected papers on language and the brain (pp. 52-72). Dordrecht: Reidel.

Harrington, A. (1996). Review of Kurt Goldstein's The Organism. Isis, 87, 578-579.

Quadfasel, F. A. (1968). Aspects of the life and work of Kurt Goldstein. Cortex, 4, 113-124.

Simmell, M. L. (1968). The reach of mind: Essays in memory of Kurt Goldstein. NY: Springer Publishing Co.

Goldstein's English publications, arranged chronologically

Gelb, A., & Goldstein, K. (1918). Analysis of a case of figural blindness. In W. D. Ellis (Ed.), A source book of gestalt psychology (pp. 315-325). NY: Harcourt, Brace.

Goldstein, K. (1936a). The function of the cerebellum from a clinical standpoint. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 83(1).

Goldstein, K. (1936b). The modifications of behavior consequent to cerebral lesions. Psychiatric Quarterly, 10, 586-610.

Goldstein, K. (1937). The problem of the meaning of words based on observations of aphasia patients. Journal of Psychology, 2, 302-316.

Goldstein, K. (1939/1963). The Organism: A holistic approach to biology. NY: The American Book Co.

Goldstein, K. (1940). Human nature in the light of psychopathology. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Goldstein, K. (1942). Aftereffects of brain injuries in war: Their evaluation and treatment. NY: Grune & Stratton, Inc.

Goldstein, K. (1948). Language and language disturbances. NY: Grune and Stratton.

Goldstein, K. (1952). The effect of brain damage on the personality. Psychiatry, 15, 245-260.

Goldstein, K. (1957). The smiling of the infant and the problem of understanding the other. Journal of Psychology, 44, 175-191.

Goldstein, K. (1959). Notes on the development of my concepts. Journal of Individual Psychology, 15, 5-14.

Goldstein, K. (1960). Concerning the concept of primitivity in culture and history, Culture in history: Essays in honor of Paul Radin. NY: Columbia University Press.

Goldstein, K. (1963). Data in the biographical directory of the American Psychiatric Association.

Goldstein, K., & Katz, E. (1937). The psychopathology of Pick's Disease. Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, 38.

Goldstein, K., Landis, C., Hunt, W. A., & Clark, F. (1938). Moro reflex and startle pattern. Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, 40.

Goldstein, K., & Marmor, J. (1938). A case of aphasia, with special reference to the problems of repetition and word finding. Journal of Neurology and Psychiatry, 1(4).

Goldstein, K., & Scheerer, M. (1941). Abstract and concrete behavior. Psychological Monographs, 53, 110-130.