- Erikson, Erik
- (1902–1994)A psychoanalyst who said that human development continues throughout life, Erikson was born out of wedlock in Frankfurt, Germany. He never knew his birth father, but when his mother, who was Danish, married pediatrician Theodor Homburger when Erik was 3 years old, he took the name Erik Homburger. His adoptive father was Jewish, his mother Lutheran; Erik Homburger was raised as a Jew. Taunted as a schoolboy for his "Jewishness," despite his starkly Nordic features, Erik Homburger became interested from early on in "identity crises." His high school graduation in Karlsruhe represented his highest academic degree. In 1927, at the suggestion of his friend Peter Blos, Erik Homburger went to Vienna to help Blos and the American psychoanalyst Dorothy Tiffany-Burlingham (1891–1979) found a progressive school for children. There he demonstrated that he had a "knack," in his term, for dealing with children; Anna Freud became involved in the school and also analyzed Erikson (he was subsequently trained at the teaching institute of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society). Sensing a Nazi cataclysm in the offing, in 1933 he emigrated to the United States and set himself up as a child analyst in Cambridge, Massachusetts; he also joined the Harvard medical faculty. After a sojourn at Yale University as professor at the medical school and the Institute of Human Relations, in 1938 he left for the West Coast, where he began to theorize about child development as a response to societal prompts, rather than just inwardly driven by sexuality. (In 1939, he began calling himself Erikson rather than Homburger.)In 1950, Erikson wrote Childhood and Society, for which he became widely celebrated, arguing that development continued throughout life in a series of eight stages— involving a "crisis" of identity in each—rather than just terminating at age 5 in some hard and fast mold. The book also helped build bridges from psychoanalysis to cultural anthropology and to social psychology. Erikson additionally became celebrated for two "psychobiographies" (a term he did not coin): Young Man Luther (1958) and Gandhi’s Truth (1969). In 1950, he left the University of California rather than sign a loyalty oath and went as senior staff member to the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. In 1960, he returned to Harvard as a professor of human development, retiring in 1970. Erikson was said to be the first child analyst in the United States.
Edward Shorter. 2014.