Andersson, Ola (1919-1990)

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ANDERSSON, OLA (1919-1990)

A Swedish psychologist and psychoanalyst, Ola Andersson was born on June 8, 1919, in Luleå, in northern Sweden, where his paternal grandparents were landowners; he died in Stockholm on May 15, 1990. Andersson wrote two important works that have served as key references in the literature: his dissertation and an article in which he describes the historical and social context in which Freud's patient Emmy von N. lived.

In 1948 he began an analysis with René de Monchy, recently emigrated from the Netherlands. When Monchy left Sweden in 1952, Ola Andersson continued his psychoanalytic training with the Hungarian psychoanalyst Lajos Székely, who was then living in Stockholm, at a time when the Swedish Psychoanalytic Society was riven by internal conflicts. He devoted himself to research on the history of psychoanalysis and the translation of psychoanalytic texts. His first translation was a work by the English psychoanalyst Charles Berg, Deep Analysis, the Clinical Study of an Individual Case, which was followed by translations of Freud over a period of more than thirty years. He again devoted himself to translation when he contracted cancer at the end of the 1980s.

In December 1962, Andersson defended his doctoral dissertation, "Studies in the Prehistory of Psychoanalysis: The Etiology of Psychoneuroses and some Related Themes in Sigmund Freud's Scientific Writings and Letters, 1886-1896," at the University of Uppsala. The dissertation covered the period between Freud's return to Vienna after his stay in Paris and meeting with Jean Martin Charcot, and the first appearance of the word "psychoanalysis."

Andersson insists on the fact that he focused on studying the origins of Freudianism to avoid interpreting them in the light of future discoveries in psychoanalysis. He noted that he did not take into account biographical or psychological information about Freud. His dissertation was written from within the field of psychoanalysis and treats the evolution of psychoanalytic theory as continuous. He shows how Freud, in his attempt to explain clinical observation, formulated ideas that, for the most part, recalled the Herbartian Vorstellungsmechanik, a dynamic interaction of ideas. Freud himself never overtly acknowledged the influence of Johann Friedrich Herbart. Before Ola Andersson, researchers like Louise von Karpinska (1914), Maria Dorer (1932), and Ernest Jones (1953) had pointed out the similarities between Herbart's psychology and psychoanalysis, but he was the first to show that Herbart's ideas served as the dominant psychological tendency in the academic milieu in which Freud worked when he was developing his theory. This dissertation is one of the first attempts to analyze the historical sources of Freud's theories and the circumstances surrounding the birth of psychoanalysis.

In 1960 Andersson was asked by the Sigmund Freud Archives in New York to investigate the case of Emmy von N. and locate any new biographical information about her. The results of his research appeared in an article that was presented in a talk given to the International Psychoanalytic Congress in Amsterdam in 1965, but was not published until 1979 in the Scandinavian Psychoanalytical Review (1979, 2, 5). In the article Andersson refers to the existing biographies of those close to Freud's patients, as well as to interviews with his children and family members, and personal documents. Because of the belated publication of the article, the historian Karl Schib was able to reveal the name of Emmy von N. for the first time in 1970. She was Fanny Moser, the widow of a successful manufacturer from Schaffhausen, Switzerland.

Andersson trained with the Swedish Psychoanalytic Society (Svenska Psykoanalytiska Förening), but his professional life was for the most part conducted outside the organization. He was never responsible for training other analysts, even though he was one of the rare Swedish psychoanalysts to have conducted original research, and his clinical activity appears to have been limited. During a period when society was concentrating its efforts on the clinical training of psychoanalysts, Andersson was the only one in Sweden involved in historical research on the origins of psychoanalysis.

Throughout his life he remained in close contact with the university, although he played no official role in the academic training of researchers. His interest later turned to matters of philosophy, psychology, and religion as they related to psychoanalysis. Between 1947 and 1980 he worked in a religious institution, the Stora Sköndal, as a professor of literature, then of psychology. He participated in the activities of another Swedish psychotherapeutic institution with a strongly Protestant tradition.

In an article published in 1990 in English by a member of the Swedish Psychoanalytic Society on the history of psychoanalysis in Sweden, Andersson was not mentioned. Nor is he listed in the Swedish Encyclopedia (1989-1996). His son no longer uses his name and there is no tombstone to mark the place where he was buried. His obituary, which appeared on May 20, 1990, in the largest daily in the region, the Dagens Nyheter, was written by a Swedish psychoanalyst influenced by the Christian psychotherapeutic tradition that impregnated Swedish thought throughout the entire twentieth century.

Per Magnus Johannson

See also: Ellenberger, Henri Frédéric; Emmy von N., case of; Moser-von Sulzer-Wart, Fanny Louise; Sweden.


Andersson, Ola. (1962). Studies in the prehistory of psychoanalysis. Stockholm: Svenska Bokförlaget.

. A supplement to Freud's case history of "Frau Emmy von N.", in "Studies on hysteria, 1895". Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 2 (5).

Dorer, Maria. (1932). Historische Grundlagen der Psychoanalyse. Leipzig: Meiner.

Johansson, Per M. (1999). Freuds Psykoanalys, Arvtagare i Sverige. Göteborg: Daïdalos.

Jones, Ernest. (1953-57). Sigmund Freud. Life and work. London: Hogarth.

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Andersson, Ola (1919-1990)

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