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Sarasin, Philipp (1888-1968)

SARASIN, PHILIPP (1888-1968)

Philipp Sarasin, the Swiss physician, psychoanalyst, and specialist on psychiatry and psychotherapy, was born at Basel on May 22, 1888, and died there on November 28, 1968.

He came from an old Huguenot family that played an important role in the cultural and economic life of Basel. Having first hesitated between studying Greek or botany, he finally opted for medicine. When he finished his studies in 1915 he worked as a volunteer physician with Eugen Bleuler in Zürich, where he commenced his first Jungian analysis with Franz Riklin. From 1916 to 1921 he worked under Ris as an assistant physician in the Rheinau clinic.

After a short period of analysis with Hanns Sachs, he had the opportunity to encounter Freud at the 1920 congress in The Hague. In spring 1921 he began his analysis with Freud, and in 1924 he set up his own practice in Basel as an independent psychoanalyst.

He was a member of the Swiss Psychoanalytic Society (SGPsa) from its foundation and, following the breakaway of president Emil Oberholzer he replaced him as president from 1928 to 1961. Thanks to his unstinting devotion to Freudian orthodoxy and the fact that he never pushed himself to the fore, he succeeded in saving the SGPsa from crisis and maintained its cohesion through difficult circumstances. Although his contribution was limited in terms of publications and lectures his main activity consisted in adopting "positions that were constantly renewed through considered comments in the course of hundreds of discussions on the scientific and practical questions that arose. . . . Through his enlightened mind, his rigorous thinking and honesty he formed the scientific conscience of our country's psychoanalysts" (Parin).

His only psychoanalytic writing of import, on Goethe's Mignon, was in his own words the result of his discussions with Freud in the course of his analysis. It is also based on a good knowledge of Goethe's life and work. In it, he analyzes the character of the androgynous young woman, Mignon, who dies as a result of being separated from her beloved, fatherly friend, and the old Harfner, who grows violent in the course of a melancholic episode, as a reworking of the poet's youthful memories.

Kaspar Weber

See also: Schweizerische Ärztegesellschaft für Psychoanalyse; Société Psychanalytique de Genève; Switzerland (French-speaking); Switzerland (German-speaking).


Parin, Paul. (1968). Philipp Sarasin: 80 jahre. Bulletin der Schweizerischen Gesellschaft für psychanalyse, 7, 1-2.

Roazen, Paul. (2001). Interview with Philipp Sarasin. In The historiography of psychoanalysis. (p. 167-171) New Brunswick, NJ : Transaction Publishers.

Sarasin, Philipp. (1929). Goethes Mignon. Eine psychoanalytische Studie Imago, 15.

. (1966). Meine richtlinien. Bulletin der Schweizerischen Gesellschaft für psychanalyse, 3, p. 1.

. (1968). Wie ich zu Freud kam. Bulletin der Schweizerischen Gesellschaft für psychanalyse, Sommer 1968, pp. 1-2.

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