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 in Edelsfeld in the Upper Palatinate, Bavaria, as the sixth of eleven children of a Protestant minister. Having studied medicine at the universities of Erlangen, Berlin and Munich, he earned his doctorate in psychiatry in 1928. He married the teacher Elfriede Wittler in 1931; the couple had three children. In 1936, he assumed the post of a senior physician at the psychiatric clinic of Frankfurt University under Karl Kleist and gained the formal qualification for professorship (habilitation) in 1937. He subsequently worked as a lecturer at Frankfurt University where he was appointed associate professor in 1946. Being offered a full professorship in Erfurt, Leonhard settled in the German Democratic Republic in 1955. Two years later, he was appointed professor of psychiatry and neurology at East Berlin’s Humboldt University and medical director of the psychiatric clinic at Charité Berlin. He held this post until becoming emeritus in 1969. An attempted return to Frankfurt University in 1964 was obstructed by the GDR authorities, who refused him an exit visa. Karl Leonhard died at age 84 in 1988 in Berlin.

 

Work in nosology

Beginning with his 1936 habilitation treatise Die defektschizophrenen Krankheitsbilder (The Clinical Syndrome of Schizophrenic Defects), Leonhard’s approach to the diagnosis of schizophrenia was based on symptomatic differentiation. His main work Aufteilung der endogenen Psychosen und ihre differenzierte Ätiologie (Classification of Endogenous Psychoses and Their Differentiated Etiology), published in 1957, has been translated into many languages. Following the path set by Kleist and Wernicke, Leonhard differentiated between “phasic” and “cycloid” disorders, with the latter having a more favourable prognosis, and subdivided the so-called “endogenous psychoses” into more than 40 clinical forms. He also developed his own form of psychotherapy (Individualtherapie der Neurosen [Individual Therapy of Neuroses], 1965).

 

During the Nazi era

Very problematic are Leonhard’s views regarding the hereditability of schizophrenic disorders, which he adopted during his collaboration with the German Institute for Psychiatric Research’s Department of Genealogical and Demographic Studies, then led by Ernst Rüdin. In his 1937 book on mixed anxiety-depression, Leonhard (1937: 111-112) emphasised the “practical and eugenic significance of anxiety psychosis” and suggested that the category “anxiety psychosis” (which he himself created) be included in the provisions of the 1933 Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring. However, according to Beckmann (2003: 418), he nevertheless “saved” patients with “risky” diagnoses (e.g., schizophrenia) from Nazi euthanasia during his time at the Frankfurt clinic.

 

Today, the International Wernicke Kleist Leonhard Society supports the dissemination of Karl Leonhard’s work and ideas. Leonhard’s son Volkmar published his father’s autobiography in 1995.

 

Awards

1984: Star of People’s Friendship in Silver, awarded by the German Democratic Republic.

 

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. März 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. (ed.) (1965): 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 (eds.) (1995): 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. Inaugural-Dissertation zur Erlangung des Doktorgrades der Medizin der Medizinischen Fakultät der Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

 

Julian Schwarz

 

Referencing format
Julian Schwarz (2015): Leonhard, Karl.
In: Biographisches Archiv der Psychiatrie.
URL: biapsy.de/index.php/en/9-biographien-a-z/92-leonhard-karl-e
(retrieved on:19.10.2018)