On This Day … 19 March

People (Deaths)

  • 1996 – Lise Østergaard, Danish psychologist and politician (b. 1924).

Lise Ostergaard

Anna Elisabeth “Lise” Østergaard (18 November 1924 to 19 March 1996) was a Danish psychologist and a politician in the social-democratic party. Under Anker Jørgensen’s leadership, she was Minister without Portfolio (1977-1980) and Minister of Culture (February 1980 to September 1982). As a psychologist, she was head of psychology in Copenhagen’s Rigshospitalet (1958) as well as the first woman to become professor of clinical psychology at Copenhagen University (1963), a position she resumed after her political career ended in the mid-1980s.


After graduating in 1947, Østergaard worked as a psychologist in Norrtulls sjukhus, a children’s hospital in Stockholm. In 1949, she returned to Denmark, first spending a year in Dronning Louises Børnehospital (Queen Louise’s Children’s Hospital) before moving to the newly established children’s psychology clinic at Copenhagen University where she remained until 1954. She then entered the Rigshospitalet’s psychology department where she was appointed head psychologist in 1958, expanding her experience in clinical psychology. As a result, from 1955 to 1960 she headed a course in clinical psychology for the Dansk Psychologforening (Danish Psychologists Association) while teaching as the first woman psychologist at the university. She also took up assignments as a guest lecturer in Lund, Sweden, and Bergen, Norway.

Published in 1961, her Den psykologiske testmetode og dens relation til klinisk psykiatri (The Psychological Test Method and its Relationship to Clinical Psychiatry) raised considerable interest among psychiatrists. While working at Rigshospitalet, Østergaard treated a number of schizophrenic patients. In 1962, this led to her En psykologisk analyse af de formelle schizofrene tankeforstyrrelser (A Psychological Analysis of Formal Schizophrenic Thought Disorders), paving the way for research on the borderline between psychology and psychiatry in collaboration with the National Institute of Mental Health in the United States.

In 1963, Østergaard became the first female professor of psychology at Copenhagen University. After heading the Studenterrådgivningsklinikken (Student Advisory Clinic, 1964-1968), she established the Institut for Klinisk Psykologi (Clinical Psychology Institute) in 1968. From 1970 to 1973, she was a member of Denmark’s Unesco committee and from 1973 a member of Akademiet for de Tekniske Videnskaber (The Danish Academy of Technical Sciences).

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