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Abrahamsen, David


ABRAHAMSEN, DAVID (1903–2002), U.S. criminologist and psychiatrist. Born in Trondheim, Norway, Abrahamsen worked in Oslo and London. In 1940 he moved to the United States, where from 1948 to 1952 he served as director of scientific research at Sing Sing Prison. He was research associate at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons from 1944 to 1953 and founded the university's Forum for the Study and Prevention of Crime. In 1966 he was appointed medical and psychiatric director of the Foundation for the Prevention of Addictive Diseases. Abrahamsen taught at Columbia University, Yale Law School, the New York School of Social Work, and the New School for Social Research, New York.

While he wrote several books on psychological themes – Men Mind and Power (1945); The Road to Emotional Maturity (1958); The Emotional Care of Your Child (1969) – Abrahamsen's works are principally devoted to criminological subjects. They include Crime and the Human Mind (1944); Study of 102 Sex Offenders at Sing Sing Prison (1950); Who Are the Guilty? – A Study of Education and Crime (1952); The Psychology of Crime (1960); "Study of Lee Harvey Oswald: Psychological Capability of Murder," in: New York Academy of Medicine Bulletin, 43 (1967), 861–88; Our Violent Society (1970); The Murdering Mind (1973); The Mind of the Accused: A Psychiatrist in the Courtroom (1983); Confessions of Son of Sam (1985); Murder and Madness: The Secret Life of Jack the Ripper (1992); and Nixon vs. Nixon: An Emotional Tragedy (1997). Abrahamsen's interest in Jewish life is seen in Jeger Jode ("I Am a Jew," 1935), a cultural and humanitarian document about the life of Jews and their contribution to culture.

In 1982 he donated a large collection of his papers to Columbia University's Rare Book and Manuscript Library, dating from 1902 to 1981. The papers relate primarily to the research and interviews he conducted while writing Nixon vs. Nixon and to his close relationship and correspondence with convicted multiple murderer David Berkowitz. There are more than 140 letters to Abrahamsen from Berkowitz, aka "Son of Sam," who murdered a succession of young people in New York City in the mid-1970s. The papers also reflect Abrahamsen's interest in other famous crimes, such as the Leopold/Loeb kidnapping and murder of Bobby Franks, and in politics (particularly Adlai Stevenson's 1952 campaign).

[Zvi Hermon /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

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