- Erikson, Erik Homburger
▪ 1995German-born psychoanalyst (b. June 15, 1902, Frankfurt am Main, Germany—d. May 12, 1994, Harwich, Mass.), profoundly influenced the study of human development with the 1950 publication of Childhood and Society, in which he divided human development, from infancy to old age, into eight stages. Each of these stages in the life cycle, he theorized, presented a crisis resolution that was influenced by culture, society, and history and contributed to the individual's ability to grow and change. Erikson also coined the term identity crisis, a personal psychosocial conflict that shaped a distinct aspect of personality. Though he was a disciple of Sigmund Freud, Erikson departed from Freud's theory that the ego was fixed in early childhood. Erikson's psychobiographies of Martin Luther, Young Man Luther (1958), and Mohandas K. Gandhi, Gandhi's Truth on the Origins of Militant Nonviolence (1969), interpreted their lives in terms of their psychological development. The latter book won Erikson a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award in 1970.When he was 68, Erikson divulged the secret behind his own identity crisis: his birth was the result of his Danish Lutheran mother's extramarital affair with a Danish man. He never knew his father. From the age of three, however, Erikson carried the name of his stepfather, a German Jew, and was known as Erik Homburger. This dual identity disturbed him emotionally. After graduating from high school, he traveled in Europe before settling in Vienna. He was 25 when Anna Freud became his psychoanalyst. He trained at the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute and became a full member in 1933, the year he fled from Hitler's Europe to the U.S. There, with neither a medical nor a university degree, he practiced child psychoanalysis in Boston and served on the faculties at Harvard Medical School (1935-36), Yale School of Medicine (1936-39), and the University of California at Berkeley (1939-50). His studies concentrated on those living on the fringes of society, and he was known especially for his observations of the Yurok tribe of northern California. He repeatedly found that similar problems are approached in various ways by different societies. Erikson left Berkeley after refusing to sign a loyalty oath and joined the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Mass. In 1960 he returned to Harvard, and in 1970 he was made professor emeritus.
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