Friday, March 28, 2008

Immigrant of the Day: Bruno Bettelheim (Austria)

Bruno Bettelheim (1903–1990) was an Austrian-born writer and child psychologist. He is widely known for his studies of autism.

Bruno Bettelheim is also the author of The Uses of Enchantment, published in 1976, in which he discussed the meaning and importance of fairy tales. Bettelheim suggests that if children are allowed to read and interpret these fairy tales in their own way, they will get a greater sense of meaning and purpose in their lives. The book was awarded the U.S. Critic's Choice Prize for criticism in 1976 and the National Book Award in the category of Contemporary Thought in 1977.

Upon his father's death, Bettelheim was forced to leave university in order to care for his family's lumber business. After ten years, Bettelheim returned as a mature student in his 30s to the University of Vienna, from which he received his Ph.D.

Bettelheim was interned at Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps from 1938 to 1939. He was released along with hundreds of other prisoners. Bettleheim arrived by ship in New York in 1939 and soon moved to Chicago, becoming a naturalized U.S.citizen in 1944.

Bettelheim eventually became a professor of psychology, teaching at the University of Chicago from 1944 until his retirement in 1973. The most significant part of Bettelheim's professional life was spent serving as director of the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School at the University of Chicago, a home for emotionally disturbed children. He wrote books on both normal and abnormal child psychology and was respected by many during his lifetime.


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