On This Day … 08 February [2023]

People (Deaths)

  • 1964 – Ernst Kretschmer, German psychiatrist and author (b. 1888)
  • 2007 – Ian Stevenson, Canadian-American psychiatrist and academic (b. 1918)

Ernst Kretschmer

Ernst Kretschmer (08 October 1888 to 08 February 1964) was a German psychiatrist who researched the human constitution and established a typology.

In 1926 he became the director of the psychiatric clinic at Marburg University.

Kretschmer was a founding member of the International General Medical Society for Psychotherapy (AÄGP) which was founded on 12 January 1927. He was the president of AÄGP from 1929. In 1933 he resigned from the AÄGP for political reasons.

After he resigned from the AÄGP, he started to support the SS and signed the “Vow of allegiance of the professors of the German universities and high-schools to Adolf Hitler and the National Socialistic state.” (German: “Bekenntnis der Professoren an den deutschen Universitäten und Hochschulen zu Adolf Hitler und dem nationalsozialistischen Staat”).

From 1946 until 1959, Kretschmer was the director of the psychiatric clinic of the University of Tübingen. He died, aged 75, in Tübingen.

Ian Stevenson

Ian Pretyman Stevenson (31 October 1918 to 08 February 2007) was a Canadian-born American psychiatrist, the founder and director of the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

He was a professor at the University of Virginia School of Medicine for fifty years. He was chair of their department of psychiatry from 1957 to 1967, Carlson Professor of Psychiatry from 1967 to 2001, and Research Professor of Psychiatry from 2002 until his death in 2007.

As founder and director of the University of Virginia School of Medicine’s Division of Perceptual Studies (originally named “Division of Personality Studies”), which investigates the paranormal, Stevenson became known for his research into cases he considered suggestive of reincarnation – the idea that emotions, memories, and even physical bodily features can be passed on from one incarnation to another. In the course of his forty years doing international fieldwork, he researched three thousand cases of children who claimed to remember past lives. His position was that certain phobias, philias, unusual abilities and illnesses could not be fully explained by genetics or the environment. He believed that, in addition to genetics and the environment, reincarnation might possibly provide a third, contributing factor.

Stevenson helped to found the Society for Scientific Exploration in 1982,[8] and was the author of around three hundred papers and fourteen books on reincarnation, including Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation (1966), Cases of the Reincarnation Type (four volumes, 1975-1983) and European Cases of the Reincarnation Type (2003). His 1997 work Reincarnation and Biology: A Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects reported two hundred cases in which birthmarks and birth defects seemed to correspond in some way to a wound on the deceased person whose life the child recalled. He wrote a shorter version of the same research for the general reader, Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect (1997).

Reaction to his work was mixed. In an obituary for Stevenson in The New York Times, Margalit Fox wrote that Stevenson’s supporters saw him as a misunderstood genius, that his detractors regarded him as earnest but gullible, but that most scientists had simply ignored his research. His life and work became the subject of the supportive books Old Souls: The Scientific Search for Proof of Past Lives (1999) by Tom Shroder (a Washington Post journalist), Life Before Life (2005) by Jim B. Tucker (a psychiatrist and colleague at the University of Virginia who now heads the division Stevenson founded), and Science, the Self, and Survival after Death (2012), by Emily Williams Kelly. Critics, particularly the philosophers C.T.K. Chari (1909-1993) and Paul Edwards (1923-2004), raised a number of issues, including instances where the children or parents interviewed by Stevenson had deceived him, instances of Stevenson asking leading questions in his interviews, and problems with working through translators who credulously believed what the interviewees were saying at face value. Stevenson’s critics contend that ultimately his conclusions are undermined by confirmation bias, where cases not supportive of his hypothesis were not presented as counting against it, and motivated reasoning since Stevenson had always maintained a personal belief in reincarnation as a fact of reality rather than also considering the possibility that it may not happen at all.

On This Day … 08 February

People (Deaths)

  • 1964 – Ernst Kretschmer, German psychiatrist and author (b. 1888).
  • 2007 – Ian Stevenson, Canadian-American psychiatrist and academic (b. 1918).

Ernst Kretschmer

Ernst Kretschmer (08 October 1888 to 08 February 1964) was a German psychiatrist who researched the human constitution and established a typology.

Kretschmer was born in Wüstenrot near Heilbronn. He attended Cannstatt Gymnasium, one of the oldest Latin schools in Stuttgart area. From 1906 to 1912 he studied theology, medicine, and philosophy at the universities of Tübingen, Munich and Hamburg. From 1913 he was assistant of Robert Gaupp in Tübingen, where he received his habilitation in 1918. He continued as assistant medical director until 1926.

In 1926 he became the director of the psychiatric clinic at Marburg University.

Kretschmer was a founding member of the International General Medical Society for Psychotherapy (AÄGP) which was founded on 12 January 1927. He was the president of AÄGP from 1929. In 1933 he resigned from the AÄGP for political reasons.

From 1946 until 1959, Kretschmer was the director of the psychiatric clinic of the University of Tübingen. He died, aged 75, in Tübingen.

Ian Stevenson

Ian Pretyman Stevenson (31 October 1918 to 08 February 2007) was a Canadian-born American psychiatrist. He worked for the University of Virginia School of Medicine for fifty years, as chair of the department of psychiatry from 1957 to 1967, Carlson Professor of Psychiatry from 1967 to 2001, and Research Professor of Psychiatry from 2002 until his death.

As founder and director of the university’s Division of Perceptual Studies, which investigates the paranormal, Stevenson became known for his research into cases he considered suggestive of reincarnation, the idea that emotions, memories, and even physical bodily features can be transferred from one life to another. Over a period of forty years in international fieldwork, he investigated three thousand cases of children who claimed to remember past lives. His position was that certain phobias, philias, unusual abilities and illnesses could not be fully explained by heredity or the environment. He believed that, in addition to genetics and the environment, reincarnation might possibly provide a third, contributing factor.

Stevenson helped found the Society for Scientific Exploration in 1982 and was the author of around three hundred papers and fourteen books on reincarnation, including Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation (1966), Cases of the Reincarnation Type (four volumes, 1975-1983) and European Cases of the Reincarnation Type (2003). His most ambitious work was the 2,268-page, two-volume Reincarnation and Biology: A Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects (1997). This reported two hundred cases in which birthmarks and birth defects seemed to correspond in some way to a wound on the deceased person whose life the child recalled. He wrote a shorter version of the same research for the general reader, Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect (1997).

Reaction to his work was mixed. In an obituary for Stevenson in The New York Times, Margalit Fox wrote that Stevenson’s supporters saw him as a misunderstood genius but that most scientists had simply ignored his research and that his detractors regarded him as earnest but gullible. His life and work became the subject of three supportive books, Old Souls: The Scientific Search for Proof of Past Lives (1999) by Tom Shroder, a Washington Post journalist, Life Before Life (2005) by Jim B. Tucker, a psychiatrist and colleague at the University of Virginia, and Science, the Self, and Survival after Death (2012), by Emily Williams Kelly. Critics, particularly the philosophers C.T.K. Chari (1909-1993) and Paul Edwards (1923-2004), raised a number of issues, including claims that the children or parents interviewed by Stevenson had deceived him, that he had asked them leading questions, that he had often worked through translators who believed what the interviewees were saying, and that his conclusions were undermined by confirmation bias, where cases not supportive of his hypothesis were not presented as counting against it.

On This Day … 08 October

People (Births)

  • 1888 – Ernst Kretschmer, German psychiatrist and author (d. 1964).

Ernst Kretschmer

Ernst Kretschmer (08 October 1888 to 08 February 1964) was a German psychiatrist who researched the human constitution and established a typology.

Life

Kretschmer was born in Wüstenrot near Heilbronn. He attended Cannstatt Gymnasium, one of the oldest Latin schools in Stuttgart area. From 1906 to 1912 he studied theology, medicine, and philosophy at the universities of Tübingen, Munich and Hamburg. From 1913 he was assistant of Robert Gaupp in Tübingen, where he received his habilitation in 1918. He continued as assistant medical director until 1926.

In 1926 he became the director of the psychiatric clinic at Marburg University.

Kretschmer was a founding member of the International General Medical Society for Psychotherapy (AÄGP) which was founded on 12 January 1927. He was the president of AÄGP from 1929. In 1933 he resigned from the AÄGP for political reasons.

From 1946 until 1959, Kretschmer was the director of the psychiatric clinic of the University of Tübingen. He died, aged 75, in Tübingen.

Cooperating with the Nazis

After he resigned from the AÄGP, he started to support the SS and signed the “Vow of allegiance of the professors of the German universities and high-schools to Adolf Hitler and the National Socialistic state.” (German: “Bekenntnis der Professoren an den deutschen Universitäten und Hochschulen zu Adolf Hitler und dem nationalsozialistischen Staat”).

Scientific Contribution

Persistent Vegetative State and Sensitive Paranoia Research

Kretschmer was the first to describe the persistent vegetative state which has also been called Kretschmer’s syndrome. Another medical term coined after him is Kretschmer’s sensitive paranoia. This classification has the merit of singling out “a type of paranoia that was unknown” prior to Kretschmer, and which “does not resemble the stereotypical image […] of sthenic paranoia”. Furthermore, between 1915 and 1921 he developed a differential diagnosis between schizophrenia and manic depression.

Types of Physique

Kretschmer is also known for developing a classification system that can be seen as one of the earliest exponents of a constitutional (the total plan or philosophy on which something is constructed) approach. His classification system was based on four main body types:

  • Asthenic (thin, small, weak).
  • Athletic (muscular, large-boned).
  • Pyknic (stocky, fat).
  • Dysplastic (unproportionate body).

The concept of two great psychopathological types of manic-depressive or ‘circular’ insanity and dementia praecox (i. e. schizophrenia) was developed by Emil Kraepelin.

Each of these body types was associated by Kretschmer with certain personality traits and, in a more extreme form, mental disorders. He wrote that there is only a weak relation between Schizophrenics and pyknic body type on the one hand, and between Circulars (with the tendency to circular type of manic-depressive psychosis) and asthenics, athletics, and dysplastics on the other.[4] Among the schizophrenics also the asthenico–athletic types are very prevalent.[4] Kretschmer believed that pyknic persons were friendly, interpersonally dependent, and gregarious. In a more extreme version of these traits, this would mean for example that the obese are predisposed toward manic-depressive illness. Thin types were associated with introversion and timidity. This was seen as a milder form of the negative symptoms exhibited by withdrawn schizophrenics. However, the idea of the association of body types with personality traits is no longer influential in personality psychology.

The Temperaments

Kretschmer divided the temperaments into the two “constitutional groups”: schizothymic, which contain a “psychaesthetic proportion” between sensitive and cold poles, and cyclothymes which contain a “diathetic” proportion between raised (happy) and sad. The modern term for light version of ‘circular’ insanity is cyclothymia. Psychic tempo of schizothymic people is between unstable and tenacious and they have alternation mode of feeling and thought, and cyclothymes psychic tempo is between mobile and comfortable. Schizothymic’s psychomotility is often inadequate to stimulus: inhibited, restrained, lamed, stiff, etc., and psychomotility of cyclothymes is adequate to stimulus and natural. Cyclothymes are often pyknics, schizothymes – athletic, asthenic, dysplastic, and their mixtures.

The Schizoids consist of the hyperaesthetic (sensitive) and anaethetic (cold) characters.