1st Edition

The Life of Gregory Zilboorg, 1890–1940 Psyche, Psychiatry, and Psychoanalysis

By Caroline Zilboorg Copyright 2022
    306 Pages 31 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    306 Pages 31 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The Life of Gregory Zilboorg, 1890–1940: Psyche, Psychiatry, and Psychoanalysis is the first volume of a meticulously researched two-part biography of the Russian-American psychoanalyst Gregory Zilboorg and chronicles the period from his birth as a Jew in Tsarist Russia to his prominence as a New York psychoanalyst on the eve of the Second World War.

    Educated in Kiev and Saint Petersburg, Zilboorg served as a young physician during the First World War and, after the revolution, as secretary to the minister of labour in Kerensky’s provisional government. Having escaped following Lenin’s takeover, Zilboorg requalified in medicine at Columbia University and underwent analysis with Franz Alexander at the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute. His American patients ranged from wealthy and artistic figures such as George Gershwin and Lillian Hellman to prison inmates. His writing includes important histories of psychiatry, for which he is still known, as well as examinations of gender, suicide, and the relationship between psychiatry and the law. His socialist politics and late work on Freud’s (mis)understanding of religious belief created a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, from members of the Warburg banking family to the Trappist monk Thomas Merton.

    Drawing on previously unpublished sources, including family papers and archival material, The Life of Gregory Zilboorg, 1890–1940: Psyche, Psychiatry, and Psychoanalysis offers a dramatic narrative that will appeal to general readers as well as scholars interested in the First World War, the Russian revolution, the Jewish diaspora, and the history of psychoanalysis.

    1. Family and Childhood: 1890–1909  2. The Struggle for Education: 1909–1914  3. War: 1914–1916  4. Revolution: 1916–1917  5. Escape: 1917–1919  6. Embracing the New World: 1919–1922  7. ‘The Great Columbia University’: 1922–1923  8. 'Complete Moral Independence’: 1923–1926  9. Bloomingdale and Berlin: 1926–1931  10. Private Practice: 1931–1933  11. Alternatives: 1933–1935  12. Divided Attention: 1935–1937  13. ‘World affairs’: 1937–1939  14. Other Affairs: 1939–1940


    Caroline Zilboorg is a life member of Clare Hall, Cambridge University, and a scholar of the British Psychoanalytic Council. Her books include Richard Aldington and H.D.: Their Lives in Letters, The Masks of Mary Renault: A Literary Biography, and the biographical novel Transgressions. She lives in Brittany, France, where she continues to write.

    "Based on careful reading of a remarkable collection of detailed sources, as well as many fascinating photographs, this meticulously researched and beautifully written biography of the psychiatrist and historian Gregory Zilboorg portrays the life of a remarkable man. The story is nicely embedded into a fascinating social, political, medical, and cultural context, one that includes politics, war, religion, and a psychoanalytic world that has been too-often forgotten. This biography will be of interest to a wide range of readers, including medical historians, psychiatrists, and anyone interested in one fascinating person’s journey from pre-revolutionary Russia to the twentieth-century United States."

    Joel Howell, MD, PhD, Elizabeth Farrand Professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan

    "There are powerful myths about daughters in search of fathers. This biography equals them. With lucidity, intensity, and vivid words the author Dr. Caroline Zilboorg sets out, 60 years after his passing, to find and better know her father, the psychoanalyst Dr. Gregory Zilboorg. Her search yields a generous gift to readers. Gregory Zilboorg was an extraordinarily brilliant man with a personal history extending from service in the ill-fated Menshevik government of revolutionary Russia to an exceptional American career as a psychiatrist, medical historian, and spellbinding public speaker. To tell his life is also to tell much of the history, not without conflicts, of Freudian analysis in America. Caroline Zilboorg engages us as her companions in a most fruitful search for identity."

    Roger Lipsey, author of Make Peace Before the Sun Goes Down: The Long Encounter of Thomas Merton and His Abbot, James Fox

    "How does a poor Russian Jew become a revolutionary socialist, an orthodox Freudian, and a devout Catholic, in that order? Read Caroline Zilboorg’s biography of her father Gregory and find out! In addition to providing illuminating commentaries on the evolution of his work in the history of psychiatry, and the social issues that animated Gregory Zilboorg as a public intellectual, Caroline Zilboorg shows a keen and sensitive grasp of the vagaries of Jewish family life in Czarist Russia, the vicissitudes and horrors of the Russian Revolution, the anguish of immigrants adapting to America, and the sheer nastiness of psychoanalytic politics. This is a searching, sympathetic, and richly embroidered biography of a courageous, creative, generous, yet much-misunderstood man. It is ‘must reading’ for anyone interested in the history of psychiatry, psychoanalysis, and the Jewish-American immigrant experience."

    Daniel Burston, Founding Scholar, British Psychoanalytic Council; author of Psychoanalysis, Politics and the Postmodern University and The Wing of Madness: The Life and Work of R.D. Laing

    'I recommend this biographical work without hesitation. Caroline Zilboorg’s excellent work will never be surpassed. This is a must read for anyone interested in European history, the early pioneers in psychoanalysis, the history of the psychoanalytic movement, the history of World War I, the Russia Revolution, and the Jewish diaspora.'

    Ilonka Venier Alexander, British Journal of Psychotherapy