Ferdinand Birnbaum

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Memorial plaque for the first individual psychological experimental school in Vienna-Brigittenau

Ferdinand Birnbaum (born May 16, 1892 in Vienna ; † December 6, 1947 there ) was an Austrian pedagogue and psychologist who played a key role in initiating the use of individual psychology as part of the Vienna school reform.


Birnbaum grew up in a working class family. He trained as a secondary school teacher and came into contact with psychoanalysis through Otto Fenichel . From 1920 he studied mathematics, physics, philosophy (he was a guest in the Vienna Circle ), sociology with Max Adler and psychology with Charlotte Bühler . He met Alfred Adler in 1920 and soon became his most important employee. Starting in the winter semester of 1929/30, he continued Adler's lecture “Difficult to Educate Schoolchildren” at the Pedagogical Institute of the City of Vienna until Austrofascism came to power. Birnbaum was an active social democrat. With Oskar Spiel and Franz Scharmer , he founded and directed the individual psychological experimental school from 1924 to 1934 as part of the Vienna school reform . He has given many basic presentations in the district teachers 'conferences and numerous lectures in the teacher working groups and parents' associations. As an editorial assistant, he wrote articles for the magazine Elternhaus und Schule . Together with play, he can be described as a pioneer of integrative education because, with their special individual psychological concept, they succeeded in successfully integrating “difficult” students. From 1927 to 1934 Birnbaum was deputy chairman of the Association for Individual Psychology . After Adler's death in 1937, he was the leading individual psychologist in Austria.

During the Second World War he tried with Oskar Spiel and a small group of psychoanalysts around August Aichhorn to save depth psychology for the post-war period by emphasizing the similarities between the depth psychology schools. In 1945 he founded the new association for individual psychology with Karl Nowotny. In 1947 Birnbaum tried to revive the international journal for individual psychology with Alexandra Adler , Karl Nowotny and Oskar Spiel . The attempt had to be stopped in 1951. The war had shifted the center of individual psychology from Europe to the USA.


In his curriculum vitae, Birnbaum describes the importance of depth psychology for education and how he became aware of it:

The two years before the war were important for my later development insofar as they forced me to deal with particularly difficult children. It was a matter of school classes that were filled with repeaters of all kinds and of both sexes. I soon realized - like everyone in my situation - that the school-based pedagogy and psychology (Herbartianism at that time) could not offer anything for the treatment of difficult cases. Then I turned my eyes in all directions and had the feeling that psychoanalysis, as strange as it appeared, could on its own show the way to a useful psychology.


  • Ferdinand Birnbaum, The mental dangers of the child: an individual psychological guide to the prevention of difficult education , Hirzel, Leipzig 1931.
  • Ferdinand Birnbaum, attempt to systematize educational means . 1950
  • Ferdinand Birnbaum, Journey into Life. A guide to mental hygiene for young people , 1954 (together with O. Spiel).
  • Franzjosef Mohr (Ed.), Paths to Unity in Depth Psychology . With contributions by Ferdinand Birnbaum, Verlag E. Reinhardt, 1987


  • Pear tree Ferdinand. In: Austrian Biographical Lexicon 1815–1950 (ÖBL). Volume 1, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna 1957, p. 87.
  • Wolfgang Keim, The Vienna School Reform of the First Republic - A Forgotten Chapter in European Reform Education , 1984. Published as an article in the magazine: Die Deutsche Schule , Volume 76 No. 4
  • KJ Parisot, Education as a Path from Imitation to Self-Assessment , Dissertation, Vienna 1966 (1973)
  • Lutz Wittenberg, history of the individual psychological experimental school in Vienna - attempt to link reform education and individual psychology in the context of the Vienna school reform by Oskar Spiel and Ferdinand Birnbaum , dissertation, Vienna 2000, ISBN 3-85114-739-1

Web links