On This Day … 08 November

People (Births)

  • 1884 – Hermann Rorschach, Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst (d. 1922).

People (Deaths)

  • 2007 – Chad Varah, English priest, founded The Samaritans (b. 1911).

Hermann Roschach

Hermann Rorschach (08 November 1884 to 01 April 1922) was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst.

His education in art helped to spur the development of a set of inkblots that were used experimentally to measure various unconscious parts of the subject’s personality.

His method has come to be referred to as the Rorschach test, iterations of which have continued to be used over the years to help identify personality, psychotic, and neurological disorders.

Rorschach continued to refine the test until his premature death at age 37.

Early Life

Rorschach was born in Zürich, Switzerland, the eldest of three children born to Ulrich and Philippine Rorschach. He had one sister, Anna, and one brother, Paul. He spent his childhood and youth in Schaffhausen, in northern Switzerland. He was known to his school friends as Klex, or “inkblot” since he enjoyed klecksography making fanciful inkblot “pictures”. By the time of Rorschach’s youth, consideration of the projective significance of inkblots already had some historical context. For example, in 1857, German doctor Justinus Kerner had published a popular book of poems, each of which was inspired by an accidental inkblot. It has been speculated that the book was known to Rorschach. French psychologist Alfred Binet had also experimented with inkblots as a creativity test.

Rorschach’s father, an art teacher, encouraged him to express himself creatively through painting and drawing conventional pictures. As the time of his high school graduation approached, he could not decide between a career in art and one in science. He wrote a letter to the German biologist Ernst Haeckel asking his advice. A major factor that led Rorschach to differ from his father and not pursue art was that his father died while he was still trying to decide what to study.

Education and Career

Rorschach, in his early years, attended Schaffhausen Kantonaleschule in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. Rorschach was a bright student from the beginning, and he often tutored other students at his school. After Ernst Haeckel suggested a career in science, Rorschach enrolled in medical school at the University of Zurich. While studying, Rorschach began learning Russian, and in 1906, while studying in Berlin, he travelled to Russia for a holiday.

Travel was a large part of his life after medical school. On a trip to Dijon, in France, he met a man who taught him about Russian culture. Torn by the decision whether to stay in Switzerland or move to Russia, he eventually took a job as first assistant at a Cantonal Mental Hospital. While working at the hospital, Rorschach finished his doctoral dissertation in 1912 under the psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler, who had taught Carl Jung. The excitement in intellectual circles over psychoanalysis constantly reminded Rorschach of his childhood inkblots. Wondering why different people often saw entirely different things in the same inkblots, he began, while still a medical student, showing inkblots to schoolchildren and analysing their responses. This dissertation contained the origins for his ink blot experiment.

All the while, Rorschach remained fascinated by Russian culture. In 1913, he obtained a fellowship opportunity in Russia, where he continued to study contemporary psychiatric methods. Rorschach spent some time in the city of Kryukovo outside of Moscow, and in 1914 he returned to Switzerland to work at the Waldau University Hospital in Bern. In 1915, Rorschach took the position of assistant director at the regional psychiatric hospital at Herisau, and in 1921 he wrote his book Psychodiagnostik, which was to form the basis of the inkblot test.

Personal Life

Rorschach graduated in medicine at Zurich in 1909 and at the same time became engaged to Olga Stempelin, a girl from Kazan (in the present-day Republic of Tatarstan, Russia). The couple were married in 1913 and lived in Russia until their relocation back to Switzerland, for Rorschach’s work, in 1915. They had two children, a daughter Elizabeth (called “Lisa”, 1917-2006) and a son, Ulrich Wadin (called “Wadim”, 1919-2010). Neither Lisa nor Wadim had children.

One year after writing Psychodiagnostik, Rorschach died of peritonitis, probably resulting from a ruptured appendix. He was still associate director of the Herisau Hospital when he died, aged 37, on 01 April 1922.

Legacy

In 2001 the inkblot test was criticised as pseudoscience and its use was declared controversial by Scientific American, as different psychologists drew different findings from the same data, suggesting their results were subjective rather than objective. In 2013 and 2015 two systemic reviews and meta-analyses were published that resulted in the criticism as pseudoscience being lifted. In November 2013, Google celebrated the 129th anniversary of Rorschach’s birth with a Google Doodle showing an interpretation of his inkblot test. Aside from the MMPI, the Rorschach Inkblot Method has generated more published research than any other psychological personality measure.

The cover of The Essentials of Psycho-analysis by Sigmund Freud, published in the “Vintage Freud” series by Vintage Books in 2005, features artwork by Michael Salu based on a Rorschach Inkblot. Hermann Rorschach’s legacy for personality assessment is undeniable. The inkblots test, created almost a century ago, consists of an important professional tool to identify personality traits. Since its development, the instrument has been used by countless people around the world, with different theoretical and professional approaches.

Publications

  • Rorschach, H. (1924). Manual for Rorschach Ink-blot Test. Chicago, IL: Stoelting.
  • Rorschach, H., Oberholzer, E. (1924). The Application of the Interpretation of Form to Psychoanalysis. Chicago.
  • Rorschach, H., Beck, S.J. (1932). The Rorschach Test as Applied to a Feeble-minded Group. New York.
  • Rorschach, H., Klopfer, B. (1938). Rorschach Research Exchange. New York.
  • Rorschach, H. (1942). Psychodiagnostics: A diagnostic test based on perception (P. Lemkau & B. Kronenberg, Trans.). Berne, Switzerland: Hans Huber.
  • Rorschach, H. (1948). Psychodiagnostik (tafeln): Psychodiagnostics (plates). Bern: Hans Huber; distributors for the United States: Grune and Stratton, New York, N.Y.

Chad Varah

Edward Chad Varah, CH, CBE (12 November 1911 to 08 November 2007) was a British Anglican priest and social activist from England. In 1953, he founded the Samaritans, the world’s first crisis hotline, to provide telephone support to those contemplating suicide.

Life

Varah was born in the town of Barton-upon-Humber, Lincolnshire, the eldest of nine children of the vicar at the Anglican church of St Peter. His father, Canon William Edward Varah, a strict Tractarian, named him after St Chad, who, according to Bede, had founded the 7th-century monastery ad Bearum (“at Barrow”), which may have occupied an Anglo-Saxon enclosure next to Barton Vicarage.

He was educated at Worksop College in north Nottinghamshire and won an exhibition to study natural sciences at Keble College, Oxford, quickly switching to Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). He was involved in the university Russian and Slavonic clubs and was founder-president of the Scandinavian Club. He graduated with a third-class degree in 1933.

Clerical Career

Varah was initially reluctant to follow his father’s vocation, but his godfather persuaded him to study at Lincoln Theological College, where he was taught by the Revd Michael Ramsey, later Archbishop of Canterbury. He was ordained deacon in the Church of England in 1935 and priest in 1936. He first served as curate at St Giles, Lincoln, from 1935 to 1938, then at St Mary’s, Putney, from 1938 to 1940 and Barrow-in-Furness from 1940 to 1942. He became vicar of Holy Trinity, Blackburn, in 1942 and moved to St Paul, Battersea, in 1949. He was also chaplain of St John’s Hospital, Battersea.

The Grocers’ Company offered him the living of St Stephen Walbrook in 1953. He became rector of the church, designed by Christopher Wren, adjacent to the Mansion House in the City of London. The church was closed for structural repairs from 1978 to 1987. His son, Andrew, built chairs to replace its pews. Great controversy followed the installation of a large circular altar in travertine marble by Henry Moore, commissioned by Varah and his churchwarden Peter Palumbo. The matter was finally settled by the Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved in 1987, which granted a retrospective faculty for its installation.

He was a supporter of women priests, but preferred the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer. Despite the absence of a permanent congregation, the church remained popular for weddings. He officiated at the marriage of Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones, only daughter of Princess Margaret, to actor Daniel Chatto in 1994.

He was made an honorary prebendary of St Paul’s Cathedral in 1975, becoming senior prebendary in 1997. He retired in 2003, aged 92, by which time he was the oldest incumbent in the Church of England.

Samaritans

Varah began to understand the problems facing the suicidal when he was taking a funeral as an assistant curate in 1935, his first church service, for a fourteen-year-old girl who had taken her own life because she had begun to menstruate and feared that she had a sexually transmitted disease. He later said “Little girl, I didn’t know you, but you have changed the rest of my life for good.” He vowed at that time to encourage sex education, and to help people who were contemplating suicide and had nowhere to turn.

To that end, Chad Varah founded the Samaritans in 1953 in the crypt of his church, with the stated aim that it would be an organisation “to befriend the suicidal and despairing.” The phone line, MAN 9000 (for MANsion House), received its first call on 02 November 1953, and the number of calls increased substantially after publicity in the Daily Herald on 07 December 1953.

He was director of the central London branch of Samaritans until 1974, and president from 1974 to 1986. He was also founder chairman of Befrienders Worldwide (Samaritans International) from 1974 to 1983, and then its president from 1983 to 1986.

Break with Samaritans

Later in life, Chad Varah became disillusioned with the Samaritans organisation. He announced in 2004 that, “It’s no longer what I founded. I founded an organisation to offer help to suicidal or equally desperate people. The last elected chairman re-branded the organisation. It was no longer to be an emergency service. It was to be an emotional support”.

Other Works

He was also closely associated with the founding of the comic The Eagle by fellow clergyman Marcus Morris in 1950. He supplemented his income by working as a scriptwriter for The Eagle and its sister publications Girl, Robin and Swift until 1961. He used his scientific education to be “Scientific and Astronautical Consultant” (as Varah put it) to Dan Dare.

In line with a long-standing commitment to sex education, he was a member of the board of reference of the British edition of the adult magazine Forum from 1967 to 1987. He was patron of the Terrence Higgins Trust from 1987 to 1999 and an original patron of the Cult Information Centre.

He wrote a television play, Nobody Understands Miranda, which was broadcast by the BBC as part of a six-part series about the Samaritans in 1972.

He continued his campaigning work into his later life, founding Men Against Genital Mutilation of Girls (MAGMOG) in 1992, and publishing his autobiography, Before I Die Again, referring to his interest in reincarnation, the same year.

Honours and Awards

Reverend Chad Varah was awarded the Albert Schweitzer Gold Medal in 1972, and became an Honorary Fellow of Keble College in 1981. He held several honorary doctorates, and was awarded the Romanian Patriarchal Cross.

He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1961 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the BBC Television Theatre.

He was appointed OBE in 1969, and advanced to CBE in 1995. He was created a Companion of Honour in 2000.

In 2012, three items of rolling stock in Britain were named Chad Varah:

  • Direct Rail Services’ 57302.
  • London Midland’s 350232.
  • Virgin Trains West Coast’s 390157.

Personal Life

Chad Varah married Susan Whanslaw in 1940 in Wandsworth, south London. They had four sons (including triplets) and a daughter. His wife became World President of the Mothers’ Union in the 1970s. She died in 1993. Varah died in a hospital in Basingstoke, four days before his 96th birthday. He was survived by four of his children, his son Michael having died several months before his father.

Writings

  • Before I Die Again: The Autobiography of the Founder of Samaritans. (London: Constable, 1992).
  • The Samaritans in the ’80s. (London: Constable, 1980).

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