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LIMENTANI, ADAM (1913-1994)

Adam Limentani, an English psychiatrist and psychoanalyst of Italian origin, was born on July 6, 1913, in Rome and died on September 9, 1994, in London after a long illness. Limentani came from a well-established Roman nonorthodox Jewish family. From an early age he showed superior abilities. He was one of only ten applicants out of three hundred to become a student intern at the Rome Teaching Medical Clinic. However, his achievement was short-lived. In July 1938, just after taking a special competitive examination to gain an appointment at the psychiatric clinic of the University of Rome, he learned from the newspapers that Italians had been declared an Aryan race. With that he lost his position as clinical assistant at the medical clinic.

In December 1938, at the age of 25, he emigrated to London. By then Limentani had developed an interest in psychotherapy, but failing to obtain a psychotherapy post, he decided to get a degree in hygiene and tropical medicine with the aim of emigrating to an underdeveloped African country to practice psychiatry. The outbreak of the Second World War prevented this move. Limentani once said that if he ever wrote an autobiography, he would call it "In adversity." To illustrate this, he could point to his not going to Africa because of the outbreak of World War II and instead returning to psychiatry.

In May 1940 his work with casualties was abruptly interrupted because Italy entered the war, whereupon Limentani became an enemy alien and was interned for six months on the Isle of Man. After his release, he eventually became a major in the Royal Army Medical Corps and was sent to the military hospital in Hertfordshire, where he worked in psychosomatic medicine. Transferred to the military mental hospital in South Wales, he worked from 1941 to 1946 with British and Allied psychiatric casualties.

When he left the army, Limentani obtained a post as government registrar at Shenley Hospital, and it proved an invaluable experience. He could practice as a psychiatrist and develop his interest in psychotherapy with the psychoanalysts in training. It was then that he decided to become a psychoanalyst. In 1962 he obtained a post at the Portman Clinic, which led him to write a number of papers on sexual deviancy and delinquency.

Limentani was elected as an analyst in 1955 and became a member of the British Psycho-Analytical Society in 1959. Alter twelve years devoted to training activities, he became president of the British Psycho-Analytical Society in 1974. In 1975 the British society, under his leadership, hosted the twenty-ninth congress of the International Psychoanalytical Association. After this congress Limentani was elected as one of the vice-presidents of the International Psychoanalytical Association with a seat on its council. He was elected president of the International Psychoanalytical Association in 1981, a post he held until 1985. To maintain a link between psychoanalysis and the professional public, from 1978 he took on the role of chairman of the publications committee of the British Psycho-Analytical Society and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis for the following ten years. He took an active interest in the development of psychoanalysis in many different parts of the world. He was able to foster an atmosphere of care and concern for colleagues throughout the world who sometimes worked in isolation or in environments that were either not accepting of, or even hostile to, psychoanalysis. At the time of his death, he was honorary archivist of the International Psychoanalytical Association, and shortly before his death he was elected honorary life vice-president of the International Psychoanalytical Association. In 1966 he wrote A Brief History of the International Psychoanalytical Association.

He was a fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and an honorary consultant to the Portman Clinic of London. Though he reached the highest positions in his profession, he never lost his humanity and his warm sense of humor, attached to a boyish mischievousness to which he would at times give quiet expression. Apart from his career, he was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather and enjoyed his family enormously.

Moses Laufer

See also: British Psycho-Analytical society; Great Britain; International Psychoanalytical Association; Khan, Mohammed Masud Rasa; Société psychanalytique de Paris and Institut de psychanalyse de Paris.


Limentani, Adam. (1972). Assessment of analysability: Major hazard in selection. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 53, 351-362.

. (1986). Variations on some Freudian themes. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 67, 235-244.

. (1989). Between Freud and Klein: The psychoanalytic quest for knowledge and truth. London: Free Association Books.

. (1991). Neglected fathers in aetiology: Treatment of sexual deviations. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 72, 573-584.

. (1994). On treatment of homosexuality. Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 8.

. (1996). A brief history of the International Psychoanalytical Association. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 77, 149-156.

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Limentani, Adam (1913-1994)

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