Hermann Rorschach (8 November 1884 – 1 April 1922) was a Swiss Freudian psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, best known for developing a projective test known as the Rorschach inkblot test. This test was reportedly designed to reflect unconscious parts of the personality that "project" onto the stimuli. Individuals were shown 10 inkblots, one at a time, and asked to report what objects or figures they saw in each of them.
Rorschach was born in Zürich and spent his childhood and youth in Schaffhausen. He became known to his high school friends as Klecks, or "inkblot" since, like many other young people in his native country, he enjoyed Klecksography, the making of fanciful inkblot "pictures." Unlike his classmates, however, Rorschach would go on to make inkblots his life's work.
See Hermann Rorschach's Ten Inkblots.
Like his father, an art teacher, Rorschach engaged in painting and drawing conventional pictures. When it was time for him to graduate from high school, 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. The scientist suggested science, and Rorschach enrolled in medical school at the University of Zurich. Rorschach began learning Russian, and in 1906, while studying in Berlin, he went for a holiday in Russia. Rorschach graduated in medicine at Zurich in 1909 and at the same time became engaged to Olga Stempelin, a girl from Kazan in the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia. At the end of 1913, after graduation, he married Stempelin,and the couple moved to live in Russia. A son was born in 1917, and a daughter in 1919.
Rorschach studied 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.
In 1857, German doctor Justinus Kerner had published a popular book of poems, each of which was inspired by an accidental inkblot and it has been speculated that the book was known to Rorschach. French psychologist Alfred Binet had also experimented with inkblots as a creativity test.
By July 1914, Rorschach had returned to Switzerland, where he served as an assistant director at the regional psychiatric hospital at Herisau. and in 1921 he wrote his book Psychodiagnostik, which was to form the basis of the inkblot test.
Only one year after writing his book, however, Rorschach died of peritonitis, probably brought on by a ruptured appendix. He was associate director of the Herisau Hospital when he died at the age of 37, on 1 April 1922.