Hermann Rorschach

Hermann Rorschach (1884-1922) ~ The Man Who Made Inkblots his Life’s Work

Most people have heard of the Rorschach inkblot test. We’ve seen it in dozens of movies: a psychiatrist is examining a patient; he shows the patient a series of inkblots and asks him to describe what he “sees” in the inkblots. While one person will see two elephants stuck together trying to pull themselves apart, another person will see something entirely different. The trained psychiatrist knows how to analyze patients’ responses to the inkblots.   

The Rorschach inkblot test was developed by one Hermann Rorschach, a Swiss Freudian psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who lived from 1884 to 1922. As a child, like many other young people in his native country, he enjoyed “Klecksography,” the making of fanciful inkblot pictures. After graduating from high school, he enrolled in medical school at the University of Zurich, where the excitement in academic circles for psychiatry reminded him of his childhood inkblots. He wondered why different people saw different things in the same inkblots and began showing them to children and analyzing their responses.  

In 1914, at the age of 30, he became assistant director at the regional psychiatric hospital at Herisau. In 1921 he wrote the book, Psychodiagnostic, which formed the basis for the inkblot test. In 1922, only one year after his book was published, he died of peritonitis brought on by a ruptured appendix. He was only 37 years old.

Copyright © 2011 by Allen Kopp

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