Obituary: Professor Joseph Sandler

JOSEPH SANDLER was a leading figure of modern psychoanalysis and one of the most productive and creative psychoanalytic theoreticians of the past 50 years. His extraordinary clarity and scholarship has led to a reformulation of psychoanalytic ideas and was one of the major contributions to the sea change which the profession experienced after the Second World War. There have been barriers between high-quality clinically based psychoanalytic thought and rigorous thinking in university life. Sandler broke them down.

Over 30 years Sandler held professorships in the Netherlands, Israel and Britain. He was appointed to the Chair of Psychoanalysis Applied to Medicine at Leiden University in 1968, where he worked for 11 years before taking up the post of Sigmund Freud Professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In 1984 he became the first incumbent of the Freud Memorial Chair of Psychoanalysis at University College London, where he remained active as Emeritus Professor following his retirement in 1992.

His brilliance was evident from the start. Born in Cape Town in 1927, he matriculated at 15 and received his first degree in psychology from the University of Cape Town in 1945. After obtaining his Master's the following year, he came to England to pursue his doctoral studies with Sir Cyril Burt at University College and worked as a clinical psychologist at the Maudsley Hospital. His early interest was in statistical psychology and in 1957 he was elected Fellow of both the Institute of Statisticians and the British Psychological Society.

Like many brilliant individuals, he was able to pursue numerous goals more or less simultaneously. He obtained his PhD in 1950 and immediately embarked on medical training at University College Hospital. He was also in psychoanalytic training, becoming a qualified analyst of the British Psycho-Analytical Society in 1952 the age of 25. His talents as a psychologist were recognised and he became the youngest Editor of the British Journal of Medical Psychology, a post he held from 1956 to 1962 and from 1968 to 1974.

Joseph Sandler was one of the greatest Freudian psychoanalysts. His intellectual contribution was immense. He, perhaps more than any other single individual, was responsible for reformulating psychoanalytic theory from its outmoded language of 19th-century biology to a conceptual framework consistent with our current understanding of how the mind works. His scientific research programme stands as a monument to clear thinking, simplicity and creativity. In 44 books and 200 papers spanning 50 years of scientific work, he offered psychoanalysts a new frame of reference bridging their experience of the clinical process with theoretical ideas.

From his position in the unusually diverse psychoanalytical culture within the British Psychoanalysts Society, Sandler was uniquely placed to understand some of the most creative minds in the discipline - Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, Donald Winnicott, Wilfred Bion - and to create ideas that have been embraced by psychoanalysts of very different theoretical orientations. His work is amongst the most often cited in the psychoanalytic literature and even those who do not acknowledge their intellectual indebtedness to him implicitly make use of his ideas. Indeed, he was the first to draw attention to how theories could implicitly impact on psychoanalytic thinking.

Sandler received many important awards and distinctions. He held 24 visiting professorships, occupied many leadership positions including the presidency of the European Psychoanalytic Federation and vice-presidency and presidency of the International Psychoanalytic Association. He was an inspired editor of the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, the foremost journal in the field, and founded and edited its sister journal the International Review of Psycho-Analysis. Over the past three years, he was Internet Editor of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis website.

Wherever Sandler worked major initiatives emerged. At Anna Freud's Hampstead Clinic he directed the Hampstead Psychoanalytic Index Project, a unique initiative which pioneered the classification of clinical material according to simple theoretical concepts. He established and led research teams at the Hampstead Clinic, the Sigmund Freud Centre for Study and Research in Psychoanalysis in Jerusalem, at the Sigmund Freud Institute in Frankfurt and at the Psychoanalysis Unit at University College London.

He was an inspired facilitator of the group thinking process. Under his guidance and with the benefit of his synthethising capacities the study groups could move from passive reflection to the cutting edge of theoretical innovation.

Sandler was himself a modest and private figure, intensely uncomfortable with adulation, seeking refuge in self-mockery. Those who got close to him will remember a gentle, quiet person who was quite unable to raise his voice, even on public occasions, a man who had no difficulty in understanding at lightning speed even the most complex ideas and who could summarise elaborate arguments in a few simple sentences.

I recall his presidential address to the Buenos Aires International Psychoanalytic Association Congress in which, having worked through the previous night, he not only summarised the essence of all the contributions in the week but also wrestled them together into a genuinely creative, uncompromising and original contribution of his own. He received a rapturous standing ovation from 4,500 psychoanalysts.

His humour was sometimes teasing, often self-effacing and invariably extraordinarily funny. It was as a family man, however, that Joseph Sandler's warmth and generosity were clearest to all. His wife Anne-Marie was a co-author on many of his most important papers and an internationally known psychoanalyst in her own right.

Joseph John Sandler, psychoanalyst: born Cape Town 10 January 1927; Senior Lecturer in Psychopathology, Middlesex Hospital Medical School 1965-72; Senior Lecturer, Institute of Psychiatry, Maudsley Hospital 1967- 78; Professor of Psychoanalysis applied to Medicine, Leiden University 1968-74; Sigmund Freud Professor of Psychoanalysis, Hebrew University, Jerusalem 1979-85; Freud Memorial Professor of Psychoanalysis, University College London 1984-92 (Emeritus); married 1950 Hannah Mayer (died 1955; one daughter), 1957 Anne-Marie Weil (one son, one daughter); died London 6 October 1998.

Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little