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Fountain, G. (1960). Gregory Zilboorg—1890-1959. Psychoanal Q., 29:1-5.

(1960). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 29:1-5

Gregory Zilboorg—1890-1959

Gerard Fountain

Gregory Zilboorg in 1919 arrived in New York speaking Russian and excellent French but no English. He at once secluded himself for three months during which he made himself master of an English of the precision and elegance that were later to make his History of Medical Psychology a masterpiece of historical writing. Instead, however, of quietly getting used to his new language, he displayed it to the world as soon as it was acquired. He traveled about the eastern and southern United States on Chautauqua, lecturing on the drama and on Russia. More than that, within a year he had translated Andreyev's He Who Gets Slapped for the Theater Guild. Zilboorg's translation was idiomatic and lively (neither quality has tended to be characteristic of English translations of Russian plays) and on the stage it was a big success.

Both the impatient pursuit of knowledge and the rather daring use of it once acquired characterized Zilboorg to the end of his life. He not only perfected himself in many studies,—psychoanalysis, historical writing, philosophy, as well as some minor skills including photography, cabinetmaking, and cooking,—but he constantly exercised them, often in full view of the public, without hesitation or apology and usually with notable success.

Gregory Zilboorg was born in 1890, eldest of the four children of a scholarly grocer of Kiev, in the Ukraine. His highly orthodox religious training culminated in bar mitzvah, after which he attended high school and then ventured to St. Petersburg where he secured admission to The Psychoneurological Institute. Vladimir Bekhterev, Chief of the Institute,—he was one of the founders of Russian experimental psychology, investigated hypnosis, and engaged in controversy with Pavlov over the conditioned reflex,—insisted that his students look at their patients as whole human beings.

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