Hermann Rorschach Biography
Rorschach was born in Zürich and spent his childhood and youth in Schaffhausen, in northern Switzerland. He was known to his school friends as Klecks, or "inkblot" since he enjoyed klecksography, the making of fanciful inkblot "pictures". Unlike his classmates, however, Rorschach went on to make inkblots his life's work.
Like his father, an art teacher, Rorschach engaged in painting and drawing conventional pictures. As the time of his high school graduation approached, he could not decide between a career in art and one in science. He wrote a letter to the famous German biologist Ernst Haeckel asking his advice. The scientist suggested science, and Rorschach enrolled in medical school at the University of Zurich. Rorschach began learning Russian, and in 1906, while studying in Berlin, he went for a holiday in Russia. Rorschach graduated in medicine at Zurich in 1909 and at the same time became engaged to Olga Stempelin, a girl from Kazan in the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia. At the end of 1913, after graduation, he married Stempelin, and the couple moved to live in Russia. A son was born in 1917, and a daughter in 1919.
Rorschach studied under the eminent psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler, who had taught Carl Jung. The excitement in intellectual circles over psychoanalysis constantly reminded Rorschach of his childhood inkblots. Wondering why different people often saw entirely different things in the same inkblots, he began, while still a medical student, showing inkblots to schoolchildren and analyzing their responses.
In 1857 German doctor Justinus Kerner had published a popular book of poems, each of which was inspired by an accidental inkblot, and it has been speculated that the book was known to Rorschach. French psychologist Alfred Binet had also experimented with inkblots as a creativity test.
By July 1914 Rorschach had returned to Switzerland, where he served as an Assistant Director at the regional psychiatric hospital at Herisau, and in 1921 he wrote his book Psychodiagnostik, which was to form the basis of the inkblot test. The Inkblots were an overnight success due to the seemingly miraculous behavior readings they provided. However, they were considered scientifically worthless by several Psychologists.
Only one year after writing his book, however, Rorschach died of peritonitis, probably resulting from a ruptured appendix. He was still Associate Director of the Herisau Hospital when he died at the age of 37, on 1 April 1922.