The Goldstein group: a case study from emigration-induced sceintific change in 20th century neuroscience

Department of Social Studies of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
frank.stahnisch AT

The famous German neurologist Kurt Goldstein (1878-1965) has been the subject of much historiographical research with regard to the range of aspects of his neurological theory, the advancement of clinical psychology, and the importance of his research group for a “holist tradition” in the neurosciences in Weimar Germany. Goldstein’s neuroscientific biography and the course of his highly innovative basic and clinical work have passed through many distinctive phases: This regards, for example, his succession to Ludwig Edinger (1855-1918)–as director of the Frankfurt Neurological Institute in 1918–and the development of the pioneering work of his research group in the neurology of head injured WWI soldiers. When receiving the directorship of the Neurological Clinic at the Berlin City Hospital of Moabit in 1930, he created a multidisciplinary research and patient care model, which was reflected in the particular architecture of the services of neurology and clinical psychology, neuropathology and histological research. Yet apart from the explicit biographical views on his work as well as on the innovative approaches of the Frankfurt and Berlin group of collaborators–such as Adhémar Gelb (1887-1936) or Wolfgang Koehler (1887-1967)–the continuity of their work rests strongly under-investigated. This is especially so with respect to the destiny of the Goldstein group after their forced-migration to North-America, which has only come into scholarly focus with respect to the occurring changes in the field of clinical and experimental psychology.

This paper investigates some conceptual and practical modifications that Goldstein’s neuroscience underwent, after he had settled in the U.S. and began to work at Columbia University (New York). Further, the group of émigrés-pupils and -collaborators of Kurt Goldstein–including the Montreal psychiatrist and neuropathologist Karl Stern (1906-1975) and in a sense the Richmond, VT, neurologist and psychiatrist Walther Riese (1890-1974)–is a most interesting example for the study of significant influences derived from emigration-induced scientific change due to the “dislocation of research cultures” in 20th century neuroscience.

Session VII.  German Neuroscience / Germans and the Neurosciences
Thursday, 21 June 2007, 4:30 - 5:00 pm

12th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences   (ISHN)
Los Angeles, California, USA, 19-23 June 2007