Surname:
Leonhard
First name:
Karl
Era:
20th century
Field of expertise:
Neurology
Psychiatry
Psychotherapy
Place of birth:
Edelsfeld (DEU)
* 21.03.1904
† 23.04.1988
Biography print

 

German psychiatrist, psychotherapist, and nosologist.

 

Karl Leonhard (1904–1988) was born on 21 March 1904 in Edelsfeld, Bavaria, as the sixth of eleven children of a Protestant minister. He studied medicine in Erlangen, Berlin, and Munich and obtained his doctorate in 1928. In 1931, he married Elfriede Wittler, a teacher, with whom he had three children. Leonhard was appointed senior physician at Frankfurt University’s psychiatric clinic in 1936. Having gained the formal qualification for a professorship (“Habilitation”) in 1937, he became an associate professor at Frankfurt University in 1946. In 1955, he transferred to the German Democratic Republic to become an ordinary professor at Erfurt University. Two years later, he was appointed director of the department for psychiatry and neurology at Charité, the hospital of Humboldt University in East Berlin. He held this position until his retirement in 1969. In the mid-1960s, he had been offered a chair at Frankfurt University, but the GDR Ministry of Higher Education refused permission for his re-transfer to West Germany. Leonhard died in Berlin on 23 April 1988 at the age of 84.

 

Work in nosology

Since his professorial thesis on the symptoms of defective schizophrenia (1936; German title Die defektschizophrenen Krankheitsbilder), Leonhard sought to develop a symptom-based classification for diagnosing schizophrenia. His main work Aufteilung der endogenen Psychosen und ihre differenzierte Ätiologie (1957; first published in English in 1979 under the title Classification of Endogenous Psychoses and their Differentiated Etiology) has been translated into various languages. Drawing on the work of Karl Kleist (1879–1960) and Carl Wernicke (1848–1905), he distinguished between phasic and cycloid psychoses, with the latter being prognostically more favorable, and subdivided the so-called “endogenous psychoses” into more than 40 different forms. Leonhard also developed his own, independent form of psychotherapy (Individualtherapie der Neurosen, 1965 [Individual Therapy of Neuroses]).

 

Attitudes during the Nazi era

Particularly problematic are Leonhard’s ideas regarding the heritability of schizophrenic disorders, which he partly developed in collaboration with the department for genealogy and demography at the German Institute for Psychiatric Research in Munich, then directed by Ernst Rüdin. On the one hand, his text Angstdepression in Klinik und Erblichkeit [Anxiety Depression in Clinic and Heritability] emphasized the ‘significance of anxiety psychoses in eugenic practice’ (1937: 111 f.) and advocated for integrating his self-created category of ‘anxiety psychosis’ into the guidelines of the 1933 Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring. But, on the other hand, he reportedly saved numerous patients of his clinic from Nazi euthanasia while working at Frankfurt University’s mental hospital (Beckmann 2003: 418).

 

Karl Leonhard’s legacy and work are maintained by the Wernicke-Kleist-Leonhard Society. In 1995, Leonhard’s son Volkmar published an autobiography of his father with the title Meine Person und meine Aufgaben im Leben [My Person and my Tasks in Life].

 

Awards

1984: Star of Friendship Between the Nations in Silver.

 

Literature

Beckmann, H. (2003): Karl Leonhards Lebensweg (1904–1988). In: K. Leonhard, H. Beckmann (eds.): Aufteilung der endogenen Psychosen und ihre differenzierte Ätiologie. Stuttgart: Thieme, pp. 418–419.

Bochnik, H. (2004): Erinnerung an Professor Dr. med. Karl Leonhard. 21 March 1904 – 23 April 1988. In: Hessisches Ärzteblatt 65 (3), pp. 158–159.

Brückner, B. (2006): Psychiatriegeschichte und Patientengeschichte. Eine Literaturübersicht zum Stand der deutschsprachigen Forschung. In: Sozialpsychiatrische Informationen 35 (4), pp. 26–30.

Leonhard, K. (1928): Über kapillarmikroskopische Untersuchungen bei zirkulären und schizophrenen Kranken und über die Beziehungen der Schlingenlänge zu bestimmten Charakterstrukturen. Halle: Marhold.

Leonhard, K. (1936): Die defektschizophrenen Krankheitsbilder. Ihre Einteilung in zwei klinisch und erbbiologisch verschiedene Gruppen und in Unterformen vom Charakter der Systemkrankheiten. Leipzig: Thieme.

Leonhard, K. (1937): Involutive und idiopathische Angstdepression in Klinik und Erblichkeit. Leipzig: Thieme.

Leonhard, K. (1957): Aufteilung der endogenen Psychosen und ihre differenzierte Ätiologie. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.

Leonhard, K. (1964): Zur Frage des spezifischen Ausfalls nach Leukotomie. In: Deutsche Zeitschrift für Nervenheilkunde 186 (4), pp. 317–322.

Leonhard, K. (1965, ed.): Individualtherapie der Neurosen. Jena: G. Fischer Verlag.

Leonhard, K. (1988): Bedeutende Persönlichkeiten in ihren psychischen Krankheiten. Beurteilung nach ihren eigenen Schriften und Briefen. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.

Leonhard, K., V. Leonhard (1995, eds.): Meine Person und meine Aufgaben im Leben. Hildburghausen: Verlag Frankenschwelle H.-J. Sailer.

Malach, H. (2009): Die Individualtherapie Karl Leonhards – Rekonstruktion und Vergleich mit verhaltenstherapeutischen Methoden der 50er und 60er Jahre. Dissertation for the Degree of Doctor of Medicine at the Medical School of Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

 

Julian Schwarz

  

Referencing format
Julian Schwarz (2015): Leonhard, Karl.
In: Biographisches Archiv der Psychiatrie.
URL: www.biapsy.de/index.php/en/9-biographien-a-z/92-leonhard-karl-e
(retrieved on:10.08.2022)