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Cohler, B.J. Sanders, J. (1991). Bruno Bettelheim (1903-1990). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 72:155-157.

(1991). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 72:155-157

Bruno Bettelheim (1903-1990)

Bertram J. Cohler and Jacqueline Sanders

Bruno Bettelheim's death at age 86, marked by his apparent feeling of desperation at the end of an unusually productive life, is a particularly sad occasion for his family, friends, and colleagues. For nearly thirty years, Bettelheim was director of the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School of the University of Chicago, and part of a generation which also included Peter Blos, Sr., Rudolph Ekstein, Erik Erikson, Willi Hoffer, Fritz Redl, Siegfried Bernfeld and others, educated primarily in Vienna, who pioneered in the application of psychoanalysis to the study, education, and treatment of children and adolescents under the guidance of Anna Freud. In the case of Bettelheim and Redl, collaboration in the late nineteen-forties led to the concept of the therapeutic milieu in which psychoanalytic concepts were applied in the construction of an environment in which every aspect of the physical and social surround was informed by psychoanalytic concepts in order that maximum effort might be brought to bear on the child's treatment.

Bettelheim was born in Vienna to an upper middle-class Jewish family and spent his adolescence and early adulthood in a time characterized by exciting intellectual contributions to literature and the arts. Fascinated by Freud's writings, analysed by Richard Sterba in Vienna, Bettelheim saw psychoanalysis as the most vital of a series of intellectual movements promising renewed appreciation of the complexity and dignity of the human condition. Completing doctoral studies in philosophy and art history, his intellectual interests were fostered by the exciting intellectual climate of his youth.

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