On This Day … 12 May

People (Deaths)

Erik Erikson

Erik Homburger Erikson (born Erik Salomonsen; 15 June 1902 to 12 May 1994) was a German-American developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst known for his theory on psychological development of human beings.

He may be most famous for coining the phrase identity crisis.

His son, Kai T. Erikson, is a noted American sociologist.

Despite lacking a bachelor’s degree, Erikson served as a professor at prominent institutions, including Harvard, University of California, Berkeley, and Yale. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Erikson as the 12th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.

Psychoanalytic Experience and Training

When Erikson was twenty-five, his friend Peter Blos invited him to Vienna to tutor art at the small Burlingham-Rosenfeld School for children whose affluent parents were undergoing psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud’s daughter, Anna Freud. Anna noticed Erikson’s sensitivity to children at the school and encouraged him to study psychoanalysis at the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute, where prominent analysts August Aichhorn, Heinz Hartmann, and Paul Federn were among those who supervised his theoretical studies. He specialised in child analysis and underwent a training analysis with Anna Freud. Helene Deutsch and Edward Bibring supervised his initial treatment of an adult. Simultaneously he studied the Montessori method of education, which focused on child development and sexual stages. In 1933 he received his diploma from the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute. This and his Montessori diploma were to be Erikson’s only earned academic credentials for his life’s work.

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