Hermann Rorschach

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Hermann Rorschach
Hermann Rorschach c.1910.JPG
Rorschach in 1921
Born(1884-11-08)8 November 1884
Died1 April 1922(1922-04-01) (aged 37)
Herisau, Appenzell AR, Switzerland
Known forRorschach test
Spouse(s)Olga Stempelin (m. 1913–22; his death)
Scientific career
FieldsPsychiatry, psychometrics
InfluencesEugen Bleuler

Hermann Rorschach (German: [ˈhɛrman ˈroːrʃax]; 8 November 1884 – 1 April 1922) was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. His education in art helped to spur the development of a set of inkblots that were used experimentally to measure various unconscious parts of the subject's personality. His method has come to be referred to as the Rorschach test, iterations of which have continued to be used over the years to help identify personality, psychotic, and neurological disorders. Rorschach continued to refine the test until his premature death at age 37. Rorschach lived a short yet successful life while influencing the world of psychology.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Rorschach was born in Zürich, Switzerland, the eldest of three children born to Ulrich and Philippine Rorschach.[3] He had one sister, Anna, and one brother, Paul. He spent his childhood and youth in Schaffhausen, in northern Switzerland. He was known to his school friends as Klex, or "inkblot" since he enjoyed klecksography making fanciful inkblot "pictures".[4] By the time of Rorschach's youth, consideration of the projective significance of inkblots already had some historical context. For example, in 1857, German doctor Justinus Kerner had published a popular book of poems, each of which was inspired by an accidental inkblot. It has been speculated that the book was known to Rorschach.[5] French psychologist Alfred Binet had also experimented with inkblots as a creativity test.[6]

Rorschach's father, an art teacher, encouraged him to express himself creatively[7] through painting and drawing conventional pictures. As the time of his high school graduation approached, he could not decide between a career in art and one in science. He wrote a letter to the famous German biologist Ernst Haeckel asking his advice. A major factor that lead Rorschach to differ from his father and not pursue art was that his father passed away while he was still trying to decide what to study.[5]

Education and career[edit]

Hermann Rorschach, in his early years, attended Schaffhausen Kantonaleschule in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. Rorschach was a bright student from the beginning, as he often tutored other students at his school. After Ernst Haeckel suggested a career in science, Rorschach enrolled in medical school at the University of Zurich.[4][2] While studying, Rorschach began learning Russian, and in 1906, while studying in Berlin, he traveled to Russia for a holiday.[5]

Travel was a large part of his life after medical school, these new adventures led him to new opportunities. On a trip to Dijon, France he met a man that taught him about Russian culture. Torn between the decision to stay in Switzerland or move to Russia, he eventually took a job as first assistant at a Cantonal Mental Hospital. While working at the hospital, Rorschach finished his doctoral dissertation in 1912 under the eminent psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler, who had taught Carl Jung. The excitement in intellectual circles over psychoanalysis constantly reminded Rorschach of his childhood inkblots. Wondering why different people often saw entirely different things in the same inkblots, he began, while still a medical student, showing inkblots to schoolchildren and analyzing their responses.[5] This dissertation contained the origins for his ink blot experiment.[2]

All the while Rorschach remained fascinated by Russian culture and, in 1913, he obtained a fellowship opportunity in Russia where he continued to study contemporary psychiatric methods.[4] Rorschach spent some time in the city of Kryukovo outside of Moscow and then, in 1914, he returned to Switzerland to work at the Waldau University Hospital in Bern.[2] In 1915, Rorschach took on the position of assistant director at the regional psychiatric hospital at Herisau,[6] and in 1921 he wrote his book Psychodiagnostik, which was to form the basis of the inkblot test.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Rorschach graduated in medicine at Zurich in 1909 and at the same time became engaged to Olga Stempelin, a girl from Kazan (in the present-day Republic of Tatarstan, Russia). The couple were married in 1913 and lived in Russia until their relocation back to Switzerland, for Rorschach's work, in 1915.[6] They had two children, a daughter Elizabeth (called "Lisa", 1917–2006) and a son, Ulrich Wadin (called "Wadim", 1919–2010). Neither Lisa nor Wadim had children, and thus Rorschach had no grandchildren or living descendants.[8]


One year after writing Psychodiagnostik, Rorschach died of peritonitis, probably resulting from a ruptured appendix.[9] He was still associate director of the Herisau Hospital when he died, aged 37, on 1 April 1922.[10]


In 2001, the inkblot test was criticised as pseudoscience and its use was declared controversial.[11] In 2013 and 2015 two systemic reviews and meta-analyses were published that resulted in the criticism as pseudoscience to be lifted.[12][13] In November 2013, Google celebrated the 129th anniversary of Rorschach's birth with a Google Doodle showing an interpretation of his inkblot test.[14][15] Aside from the MMPI, the Rorschach Inkblot Method has generated more published research than any other psychological personality measure.[citation needed]

The cover of The Essentials of Psycho-analysis by Sigmund Freud, published in the "Vintage Freud" series by Vintage Books in 2005, features artwork by Michael Salu based on a Rorschach Inkblot. [16]


Rorschach, H. (1924). Manual for Rorschach Ink-blot Test. Chicago, IL: Stoelting.

Rorschach, H., Oberholzer, E. (1924). The Application of the Interpretation of Form to Psychoanalysis. Chicago.

Rorschach, H., Beck, S.J. (1932). The Rorschach Test as Applied to a Feeble-minded Group. New York.

Rorschach, H., Klopfer, B. (1938). Rorschach Research Exchange. New York.

Rorschach, H. (1942). Psychodiagnostics: A diagnostic test based on perception (P. Lemkau & B. Kronenberg, Trans.). Berne, Switzerland: Hans Huber.

Rorschach, H. (1948). Psychodiagnostik (tafeln): Psychodiagnostics (plates). Bern: Hans Huber; distributors for the U.S.A, Grune and Stratton, New York, N.Y.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Huffman, K. (2008), Psychology in Action, John Wiley & Sons, 9th Edition, ISBN 0-470-37911-1
  2. ^ a b c d e Schwarz, W (1996). "Hermann Rorschach, MD: His life and work". Rorschachiana. 21 (1): 6–17.
  3. ^ O'Roark, Ann M.; Exner, John E. (eds.) (2013). 'History and Directory: Society for Personality Assessment Fiftieth Anniversary. Routledge. p. 65. ISBN 978-0805805697. Retrieved 16 January 2015.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  4. ^ a b c Searls, Damion (2017). The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing. New York: Crown. ISBN 978-080-4-1365-49.
  5. ^ a b c d Pichot, P. (1984). Centenary of the birth of Hermann Rorschach. (S. Rosenzweig & E. Schriber, Trans.). Journal of Personality Assessment, 48, 591–596.
  6. ^ a b c Herman Rorschach, M.D at mhhe.com
  7. ^ "Hermann Roschach.Biography". Biography.com. Biography.com. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  8. ^ Searls, Damion (2017), The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing, New York: Crown, p. 318, ISBN 978-080-4-1365-49
  9. ^ "A blot on the scientific landscape". SwissInfo.ch. 2008-01-11. Retrieved 2009-07-04.
  10. ^ "About the International Society". The International Rorschach Society. Archived from the original on 2009-07-09. Retrieved 2009-07-04.
  11. ^ Scott O. Lilienfeld, James M. Wood and Howard N. Garb: What's wrong with this picture? Scientific American, May 2001
  12. ^ Mihura, J.L., Meyer, G.J., Dumitrascu, N., & Bombel, G. (2013). The validity of individual Rorschach variables: Systematic reviews and meta-analyses of the Comprehensive System. Psychological Bulletin, 139(3), 548-603. doi:10.137/a0029406
  13. ^ Mihura, J.L., Meyer, G.J., Bombel, G., & Dumitrascu, N. (2015). Standards, accuracy, and questions of bias in Rorschach meta-analyses: Reply to Wood, Garb, Nezworski, Lilienfeld, and Duke (2015). Psychological Bulletin, 141(1), 250-260. doi:10.1037/a0038445
  14. ^ "Hermann Rorschach Google doodle asks users to interpret inkblot test". theguardian.com. 8 November 2013. Retrieved 9 December 2013.
  15. ^ "Inkblot Doodle on Google marks Hermann Rorschach's Birthday". Biharprabha News. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
  16. ^ https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=FI0XtY0LQUsC&printsec=frontcover

External links[edit]