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ROMAN, Klara Goldzieher

Born 1881, Budapest, Hungary; died 9 August 1962, Zurich, Switzerland

Daughter of William Goldzieher; married Mr. Roman, 1900

Born in Hungary to a medical, tradition-bound family that disapproved of a medical career for women, Klara Goldzieher Roman secretly studied handwriting. Given her familial background and thwarted ambitions, Roman naturally focused on physiological-neurological aspects in handwriting. However, only after her marriage at nineteen, with her husband's reluctant consent, did Roman study and experiment in Berlin. She became Kurt Lewin's research assistant. Recognition and honors soon accumulated: Roman graduated from the Hungarian Royal State Institute for Abnormal Psychology; she was elected a member of the Hungarian Society of Psychology; she founded the Hungarian Institute for Handwriting Research; and she became the official forensic handwriting expert for juvenile delinquents and later for adult criminal courts.

Although Roman by no means overlooked characterological indications in handwriting, her emphasis was physiological, resulting in her invention of the graphodyne, a stylus for measuring tension. Roman was best known for this invention and its use in her inquiries into handedness and children's mental development and maturation. Her inquiries resulted in the conclusion that writing speed is based on genetic factors, and writing pressure chiefly on special conditions and environmental influences.

When Roman came to the U.S. in 1947, her work was met with scepticism and indifference. In 1948 she won a unique prize: an appointment to teach graphology as a staff member of the New School of Social Research. It was the first time a recognized American college offered graphological courses for credit. In 1952 Handwriting: A Key to Personality was published and launched Roman's graphological method in print.

In the U.S., as in Europe, Roman won recognition for her astute findings concerning speech disorders, criminality, and personality. Additionally, she did research in arthritis, child disturbances, and differential diagnosis in speech and hearing deficiencies. Invitations to lectures and assignments as teacher in residence and research collaborator took Roman to many parts of the U.S. Perhaps her most influential, far-reaching work, Encyclopedia of the Written Word (1968), treated graphology as only one aspect of what Roman considered man's greatest achievement: the written word.

Roman's most valuable contributions to graphology relate to the proven link between children's handwriting variability and age, differential diagnosis in speech and hearing disturbances, and the psychogram ("the profile-in-the-round"), devised in collaboration with S. W. Staemfli. The psychogram introduced a pictorial concept of personality structure and functioning that more easily dovetailed with personality theories of overlapping functions. Three years before her death, eager to devote more time to the encyclopedia, Roman resigned from the New School, but not without certainty that the graphological courses would continue under the able teaching of her long-time assistant.


Vernon, P. E. and G. W., Studies in Expressive Movement (1933). Wolfson, R., Introduction to Encyclopedia of the Written Word (1968).


Roman, Klara Goldzieher

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