Rosenzweig, Saul
Publications in VIVO

Rosenzweig, Saul (1907-2004)

Saul Rosenzweig was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on February 7, 1907. Saul’s grandfather, an orthodox Jewish cantor, emigrated from Russia with his family in 1890 to avoid the conscription of their only son, David. David Rosenzweig and his new bride, Etta Tatel, were Saul’s parents. Saul’s father was a jeweler and a watchmaker. His mother handled real estate transactions. Saul had a sister, Ruth, who worked in his father’s shop, and a brother, Myer, who died at age 19 in an accidental drowning. Saul lost the vision in his left eye in a farming accident at age 13.

Saul attended Malden High School outside of Boston from 1921 to 1925 and, ranking first in his class, was salutatorian at graduation. Saul earned his bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, from Harvard University (1929), with a major in philosophy. In his senior thesis he applied Freud’s Oedipus theory to Schopenhauer’s life, and Adler’s inferiority theory to the life of Nietzsche. Saul also developed lasting friendships with Gordon Allport, Henry Murray, and B. F. Skinner during this time.

Saul enrolled in graduate study in psychology at Harvard from 1929 to 1933. In his doctoral thesis he applied experimental methods to study repression. An incidental tangent from this research resulted in his first published article (“The Experimental Situation as a Psychological Problem,” 1933), in which he explored the reciprocal interaction between experimenter and subject and laid the foundation for the work on experimenter expectancy effects that flourished a generation later.

Saul also corresponded with Sigmund Freud during this time about his experimental studies of repression. Saul was admonished in a personal letter from Freud: “I cannot put much value on such [experiments] because the abundance of reliable observations on which these propositions rest makes them independent of experimental verification. Still, it can do no harm.” This letter from Freud is reproduced in Rosenzweig’s article “Freud and Experimental Psychology: The Emergence of Idiodynamics” (in A Century of Psychology as Science, edited by Koch & Leary, 1985).

Saul studied under the stimulating influence of Henry Murray and his intellectually lively group at the Harvard Psychological Clinic. At this time he developed a lifelong interest in American literature. Saul undertook clinical training and weathered the Great Depression as a voluntary research associate at the Clinic. In 1934 Saul left Harvard to join the staff of Worcester State Hospital, where he stayed until 1943. There he underwent a didactic psychoanalysis with Geza Roheim, a Hungarian psychoanalyst. During this time Saul also taught psychology at Clark University, where he became intrigued by the visit Freud made to the United States in 1909 to this university. This interest culminated in a scholarly book in 1992 (Freud, Jung, and Hall the King-Maker: The Historic Expedition to America [1909]) on Freud’s only trip to America. At this time (1936) Saul also published an important article (“Some Implicit Common Factors of Diverse Methods of Psychotherapy”) in which he anticipated the notion that certain efficacious common factors can be found in most forms of psychotherapy. Sixty-six years later he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award as the founder of the common factor movement by the Society for Psychotherapy Integration.

In 1941 Saul married Louise Ritterskamp on March 21, the first day of spring. In 1943 he joined the staff of the Western State Psychiatric Institute in Pittsburgh as chief psychologist. During his five years there, Saul pursued the clinical application of projective methods, culminating in the publication of the Rosenzweig Picture-Frustration Study in 1947. This widely used technique for assessing aggression is still popular today. This test appears in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, when the main character undergoes psychological testing at the end of the movie. A more far-reaching result of Saul’s interest in aggression was his founding of the International Society for Research on Aggression in 1972.

Saul joined the faculty at Washington University in St. Louis in 1949 and remained here for the rest of his life, teaching courses in personality and psychotherapy. In the 1950s he developed a method of inquiry he called idiodynamics. This became his focus for the remainder of his career, and in 1972 he founded the Institute for Idiodynamics. This method conceives of the person as a unique universe of events and distinguishes one person from another by recurrent individual themes. At the time of his death, Saul was working on idiodynamic analyses of the lives of Sigmund Freud, Henry James, and the relationship between Nathanial Hawthorne and Herman Melville.

Saul was known as a difficult and demanding colleague, but he was widely respected for his scholarly contributions and grasp of historical facts and nuances. He was a staunch individualist and determined researcher. In 1951 he traveled to Zurich to interview C. G. Jung, then to London to interview Anna Freud and Melanie Klein. In 1957 he traveled to Pribor, Moravia, to gather material regarding the birth of Freud. In 1964 he interviewed Freud’s personal physician, Max Schur. Saul dedicated his life to his research, and all who knew him knew a first-rate scholar.

In 2000, the Psychology Department at Washington University honored Saul with a Jubilee celebration for his 50 years of service. The Jubilee proceedings were published in the October 2003 issue of the Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies. Saul remained actively engaged in research, mostly of a literary and historical nature, through his nineties and even employed a graduate student and a postdoc most years. Fortunately for posterity, Saul’s last publication was an autobiography, published in the Journal of Personality Assessment (2004). He was also working on several book projects. Saul died of pneumonia at the age of 97. He endowed his Foundation for Idiodynamics to continue with his work. He is survived by his wife, Louise, age 95; his daughter, Julie Rosenzweig-Hahn; and two grandsons.

Larsen, Randy J.American Psychologist, Vol 60(3), Apr 2005, 259. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.60.3.259

Also see:

In memoriam: The idioverse of Saul Rosenzweig (1907-2004).Kaufman, MarkJournal of Psychotherapy Integration, Vol 17(4), Dec 2007, 363-368. doi:10.1037/1053-0479.17.4.363


selected publications