Family Card - Person Sheet
Family Card - Person Sheet
Birth6 Nov 1878, Kattowicz, Upper Silesia (Poland)
Death19 Sep 1965, New York
FatherAbraham GOLDSTEIN (1836-1902)
MotherRosalie CASSIRER (1845-1911)
ChildrenUrsula H.
Notes for Kurt GOLDSTEIN
Occupation: Neurologist, author. Lived with Betty Falk for some years prior to his death.1056 - See three biographical notes below, and also more in Misc Note 2.

Short Biography1057
Kurt Goldstein was born on 6 November 1878 in Kattowicz, upper Silesia, Poland,

Which formed at that time a part of Germany.  After attending the local public school, he went to the humanistic Gymnasium in Breslau.  At the universities of Breslau and Heidelberg, he studied philosophy and literature.  He studied medicine under Carl Wernicke, who stimulated his interest in aphasia, graduating M.D. in 1903.  He then became a post-doctoral assistant at the Frankfurt neurological institute, where he practiced comparative neurology in the neuropathological laboratory under Ludwig Edinger.  In 1906, he moved to Königsberg, where he worked in psychiatry and neurology, and became acquainted with the Würzburg school of experimental psychology, which emphasizes “imageless thought”.

        In 1914, Goldstein returned to Frankfurt as Edinger’s first assistant.  He soon established his own Institute for Research on the After-Effects of Brain Injury.  His very productive collaboration with Adhémar Gelb, an experimental psychologist whose strong point was visual perception, also started here.  Goldstein succeeded Edinger in the Neurology chair at Frankfurt.  In 1930, he left Frankfurt for Berlin, where he became director of a large neuropsychiatric clinic and a professor at the university in the department of Neurology and Psychiatry.

        In 1933, Goldstein was denouned to the Nazis by an assistant and charged with leftist sympathis and Jewishness.  Together with Eva Rothmann, a former student who was to become his wife, Goldstein went to The United States in 1935, at the ate of 56.  He started a new career in New York at Columbia University, the New York Psychiatric Institute, and the Montefiori Hospital.  In 1938, he traveled to Boston to deliver the William James Lectures and from 1940 to 1945, he served as clinical professor of Neurology at Tufts University, Medford, Mass.  He then returned to New York because of his wife’s illness.  In 1965, Goldstein suffered a stroke with right hemiplegia and global aphasia.  He died on September 19, three weeks post onset, leaving over 200 publications, mostly in German and English and spanning six decades.  They include work on the relationship between circumscribed cortical injuries and sensory and motor defects, problems of perceptual disturbances and agnosia, cerebellar function and its relation to tonus, localization on the cerebral cortex and the problem of aphasia. 

Introduction to The Organism, by Oliver Sachs.1058
Kurt Goldstein (1878-1965) was already an established neuropsychologist when he emigrated from Germany to the United States in the 1930s. This book, his magnum opus and widely regarded as a modern classic in psychology and biology, grew out of his dissatisfaction with traditional natural science techniques for analyzing living beings. It offers a broad introduction to the sources and range of application of the "holistic" or "organismic" research program that has since become a standard part of biological thought.

In the course of his studies of brain-damaged soldiers during World War I, Goldstein became aware of the inability of contemporary biology and medicine to explain both the impact of such injuries and the astonishing adjustments that patients made to them. He began to challenge atomistic approaches that dealt with "localized" symptoms, insisting instead that an organisim must be analyzed in terms of the totality of its behavior and interaction with its surrounding milieu.

Goldstein was especially concerned with the breakdown of organization and the failure of central controls that take place in catastrophic responses to situations such as physical or mental illness. But he was equally attuned to the amazing powers of the organism to readjust to such catastrophic losses, if only by withdrawal to a more limited range which it could manage by a redistribution of its reduced energies, thus reclaiming as much wholeness as new circumstances allowed.

Goldstein's theses in The Organism have had an important impact on philosophical and psychological thought throughout this century, as can be seen in the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Georges Canguilhem, Ernst Cassirer, and Ludwig Binswanger. In the words of Oliver Sacks: "All that Goldstein observed and brooded over -- levels of organization of the nervous system, health, disease, adaptation, reconstruction -- has once again come to the fore, with the advent of new conceptual and technical tools to approach these. The global theory that Goldstein and Lashley and the Gestaltists sought may now have emerged in Edelman's theory of neural Darwinism and his concept of the brain as a sort of society, in which every part is dynamically connected with every other."

Second Biography including Publication List1059
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

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. (1936c). The problem of the meaning of words. Journal of Psychology, 2.
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, 110-13
Misc Note 2 notes for Kurt GOLDSTEIN
Kurt Goldstein (A Biographical Note)
Kurt Goldstein was born on November 6, 1878, the seventh of nine children (4). The Jewish family lived in Upper Silesia, today Poland. A quiet and shy boy, Kurt was known as "the professor" for his love of books. He began the study of philosophy when he entered the University, but soon took up medicine, receiving his M.D. in 1903.

While working at a psychiatric clinic in Königsberg from 1906 to 1914, he was disappointed at how little real treatment the patients received. So he began a life-long work of careful observation and treatment of individuals with psychiatric and neurological disorders. During World War I he built up what was to become a renowned clinic for brain-damaged soldiers, which he directed until 1930. He published widely and was a well-known and respected figure, not only in the international neurological community, but also among psychologists and philosophers, interacting primarily with Gestalt psychologists and phenomenologists.

When Hitler took power in 1933 Goldstein -- a Jew -- was briefly jailed and then forced to leave the country. The Rockefeller Foundation supported him for a year in Amsterdam. During this year he wrote his monumental work Der Aufbau des Organismus, published a year later in Germany and in 1939 in America as The Organism (1). This book, written by the fifty-five-year-old Goldstein, was the mature fruit of decades of work.

Goldstein emigrated to the United States in 1935, where he lived and worked until his death in1965. He never felt quite at home in America or in the English language, although he became an American citizen in 1940. Nonetheless Goldstein remained highly productive and worked at various universities and clinics -- Columbia, Harvard, Tufts, Brandeis -- until shortly before his death.

Robert Ulich, a Harvard professor and colleague, described a visit to the elderly Goldstein:

He looked at the mystery of individual being as embedded in the greater mystery of the totality of Being. The visible and comprehensible in the cosmos of things pointed, so he thought, at the invisible and incomprehensible sources of the creation, and he fully accepted the dictum of Goethe (who was to him the consummation of wisdom) that we should courageously explore the explorable but stand in awe before the inexplorable.... I left him, feeling inspired at having been in the presence of a great man, a man whose insight and mature serenity had enabled him to combine into a noble synthesis the many antitheses of human existence. Goethe, so it seemed to me, had returned to him. I heard later that he often asked his cousin to read to him from Goethe's works. (5)
Kurt Goldstein died on September 19, 1965.

See accompanying article for references.

This document:
Original source: In Context (Fall, 1999); copyright 1999 by The Nature Institute 1060
Last Modified 7 Mar 2004Created 24 Jul 2023 by Jim Falk