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Gill, M.M. (1961). David Rapaport—1911-1960. Bul. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 17:755-759.
(1961). Bulletin of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 17:755-759
Merton M. Gill, M.D.
Though he had suffered from chronic rheumatic heart disease since childhood and had for years been plagued by major and minor illnesses, David Rapaport's sudden death on December 14, 1960 came as a shock to his family, his friends, the psychoanalytic community, and psychologists the world over. The scope of his work was such that it cannot be assessed quickly, nor in the brief compass of an obituary.
He was born in Hungary in 1911 to a middle-class urban Jewish family. Intellectually and socially precocious, by his early teens he was already an accomplished political orator and leader in a leftist Zionist youth organization. The organization was not entirely legal; and more than once the youthful, fiery spellbinder was in serious danger. After four years at the University in Budapest, spent in the study of mathematics and physics, he joined his group's Kibbutz in Palestine, where he lived for two years. He was sent back to run the youth group in Hungary, where from 1935 to 1938 he was psychoanalyzed and obtained his Ph.D. in psychology from the Royal Hungarian University.
It is characteristic of his industry, rapid grasp of a field, and tendency to hide his achievements under a superior's cloak that during this period he "ghosted" two books on psychoanalysis for an analyst who was his "fatherly friend." This venture was an early clue to his lifelong interest in hoaxes, which unfortunately never issued in a publication. He was convinced that in the hoax lies an important avenue to the understanding of certain facets of creative thinking.
In 1938, in a crucial and painful decision, he decided not to rejoin his Kibbutz but, instead, to emigrate to the United States. He worked briefly at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, Osawatomie State Hospital in Kansas, and finally, in 1940, settled at the Menninger Clinic.
Incongruous as this prickly, stiff immigrant Jew from Budapest was in Topeka, Kansas, it was a tribute to his talent and to the perspicacity of the leaders of the Menninger Clinic that he rose rapidly in the organization, first becoming chief psychologist and then head of the Research Department.
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