Waelder, Robert (1900-1967)

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WAELDER, ROBERT (1900-1967)

An Austrian psychoanalyst who taught in the psychiatric section of Philadelphia Jefferson Medical College, Robert Waelder was born on February 20, 1900, in Vienna, and died on September 28, 1967 in Broomall, Pennsylvania.

He was the son of Joseph Waelder, a Jewish merchant. After graduating from Maximilian gymnasium with honors in 1918, Waelder entered the university and in 1921 obtained a doctorate in physics.

At the age of twenty-two, Waelder consulted Sigmund Freud about treatment and, following his advice, he started a personal analysis with Robert Hans Jokl; he subsequently underwent training analyses with Hermann Nunberg and Anna Freud. In 1924, Waelder became a member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, where he performed a variety of functions as librarian and as a member of the candidate committee. From 1932 to 1939, with Ernst Kris, Waelder edited Imago, becoming that journal's editor-in-chief in 1934.

As a representative of the Viennese analysts, and within the context of an exchange of views, in 1936 Waelder presented in London his critique of the teachings of Melanie Klein; "The Problem of the Genesis of Psychical Conflict" was published in 1936. Waelder also presented to the Royal Institute of International Affairs his work on psychology and politics, which was published as "The Psychological Aspects of International Affairs" and suggested how psychoanalytic notions might be applied to the study of war; in a similar vein, he had written a short study on collective psychoses; this was published first in French, and subsequently as Psychological Aspects of War and Peace. Another socio-political work, Progress and Revolution, was published in 1967. According to Richard Sterba, Waelder "showed a certain unworldliness that stood in contrast to the vastness of his scientific and literary knowledge" (Sterba, p. 138). He nevertheless created a considerable impression upon colleagues. "Waelder's extensive knowledge and his vast vision are easily seen, particularly in his later writings" (p. 141).

Waelder's first marriage was to Jenny Pollak, who in 1928 also became a member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. In 1938, he emigrated to the United States and taught at the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute. Later, in 1943, he settled in Philadelphia and became a training analyst at the recently founded Philadelphia Psychoanalytic Institute. After a schism, in which members broke away to form the Philadelphia Association for Psychoanalysis, Waelder served as president of that organization from 1953 to 1955. In 1963, he was appointed professor of psychoanalysis at the psychiatry department of Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.

Elke MÜhlleitner

See also: United States


Sterba, Richard. (1982). Reminiscences of a Viennese psychoanalyst. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

Waelder, Robert. (1929). Psychological aspects of war and peace. Geneva Studies, 10,2.

. (1960). Basic theory of psychoanalysis. New York: International Universities Press.

. (1967). Progress and revolution; a study of the issues of our age. New York: International Universities Press.

. (1976). Psychoanalysis: Observations, theory, application: Selected papers of Robert Waelder. New York: International Universities Press.