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Psychobiography aims to understand historical individuals such as artists or political leaders, through the application of psychological theory and research. It is, in essence, a form of case study.
Sigmund Freud's analysis of Leonardo da Vinci (titled "Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood") is generally considered to be the first "modern" psychobiography. Persons who have been the subject of psychobiographical research include Freud, Adolf Hitler, Sylvia Plath, Carl Jung, Vincent van Gogh, Abraham Lincoln, Elvis Presley, Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche and Richard Nixon. Many psychobiographies are Freudian or psychodynamic in orientation, but other commonly used theories include narrative models of identity such as the life story model, script theory, object relations, and existentialism/phenomenology.
The discipline of psychobiography has developed various methodological guidelines for psychobiographical study. Some of the most prominent are these:
1. The use of prototypical scenes in the life of the subject to serve as a model of their personality pattern
2. The use of a series of indicators of salience, markers such as primacy, frequency, and uniqueness of an event in a life, to identify significant patterns
3. The identification of pregnant metaphors or images that organize autobiographical narratives
4. Logical coherence or consistency as a criterion for adequate psychological interpretations
However, scholars untrained in the discipline who do not follow these guidelines continue to produce psychobiographical studies. Major psychobiographical authors include Erik Erikson, James William Anderson, Henry Murray, George Atwood, and William Runyan.
- Elms, Alan (1993). Uncovering Lives. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Ogilvie, Dan (2004). Fantasies of Flight. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Runyan, William (1982). Life Histories and Psychobiography. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Schultz, William Todd (2005). Handbook of Psychobiography. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Safranski, Rudiger. Nietzsche: a Philosophical Biography Granta Books, London, (2002); Vienna, (2000); New York (2002) ISBN 0-393-05008-4
- Waite, Robert G.L. The Psychopathic God: Adolf Hitler. New York: First DaCapo Press Edition, (1993) (orig. pub. 1977). ISBN 0-306-80514-6.
See also 
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