July 22: Augusta Fox Bronner and Juvenile Deliquency
Psychologist Augusta Fox Bronner, who redirected the study of juvenile delinquency to social and environmental rather than biological causes, and to character rather than intelligence, was born in Louisville, Kentucky on this date in 1881. After training at Columbia University’s Teachers College and spending several rewarding years as a classroom teacher, Bronner attended a Harvard summer seminar at which she met and joined forces with William Healy, whom she married after co-founding the Judge Baker Foundation, a model center for guiding adolescents through the trials of youth. Bronner kept the Foundation (later called the Guidance Center) running throughout her life, and became a model for hundreds of child guidance clinics in the U.S. and other lands. Her 1917 book, The Psychology of Special Abilities and Disabilities, and her 1927 book with Healy, A Manual of Mental Tests and Testing, were significant in both clinical psychology and criminology.
“Particularly significant was their development of the widely adopted ‘team’ concept in psychiatric practice — which brought the psychologist, the social worker, and others into a case conference with the physician.” —Notable American Women, the Modern Period, Volume 4
July 21: Jerzy Bielecki’s Christian Foundation of Auschwitz Families
Jerzy Bielecki, a Polish social worker who survived for four years in Auschwitz, escaped with the Jewish inmate he loved, Tzila Cybulska, on this date in 1944. Bielecki had been captured by the Gestapo while crossing the Hungarian border in 1940, and was on the first transport of 728 Polish political prisoners to the newly built camp at Auschwitz. His fluency in German allowed him to be assigned work at an Auschwitz subcamp, where he made contact with the Polish anti-Nazi resistance and also met Cybulska, who was suffering through hard labor. Bielecki and Cybulska managed to walk out of Auschwitz with a fake order forged by Bielecki, who was wearing a stolen SS uniform. They trekked for ten days — sometimes he carried her — until finding shelter with his family and friends. Bielecki became active in the resistance, and the lovers were separated by the end of the war, each believing that the other had died. In May 1983, the two of them met for the first time since in thirty-nine years. Bielecki co-founded and chaired the Christian Association of the Auschwitz Families, and was inscribed by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations in 1985. He died at age 90 in 2011.
“Sometimes I cried after the war, that she was not with me. Fate decided for us, but I would do the same again.” —Jerzy Bielecki
July 20: A Nazi Ban on Jewish Olympians
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported on this date in 1936 that the Nazi government in Berlin had forbidden all German newspapers from “reporting anything about the activities of Jews on Olympic teams or to comment on participation of Jews in next month’s games… One of the purposes of this measure was believed to be to prevent Jewish papers in the Reich from mentioning that Greta Bergmann, a champion high-jumper and one of the two ‘non-Aryan’ member of the German Olympic team, has been eliminated from competition.” Thirteen Jews (or people of Jewish descent) nevertheless won medals in the Nazi Olympics, including six Hungarians and one German, Helene Mayer, a mischling fencer (mixed-race, in her case with a Jewish father) who had fled the Nazis once Jewish athletes were expelled from sports associations, but returned to compete on the German team, wearing a swastika on her sleeve. Roma people were also purged from German sports. Two days after the 1936 Olympics, Captain Wolfgang Fürstner, head of the Olympic village, killed himself after being dismissed from the military because of his Jewish ancestry.
“In 1940, the Olympic games will take place in Tokyo. But thereafter they will take place in Germany for all time to come, in this stadium.” —Adolf Hitler to Albert Speer, Spring, 1937
July 19: Max Fleischer
Animation pioneer Max Fleischer, who brought Betty Boop, Popeye the Sailor, Koko the Clown, and Superman to the big screen, was born in Krakow, Poland on this date in 1883. He came to New York at age 4 and eventually married his childhood sweetheart. Trained as an illustrator at Cooper Union, he created the Rotoscope, a device that allows frames of live-action film to be traced and translated into animation. He and his brother Dave used the Rotoscope to make their first cartoon in 1914. (Richard Linklater would revive the Rotoscope to make his 2001 film, Waking Life.) The Fleischer Studios also introduced the “follow the bouncing ball” singalong and introduced many other innovative — and risqué — elements to their cartoons, with far more artistic khutspe than Walt Disney, their main competitor. They were the first studio to synchronize sound and animation, which they brought to tremendous heights, using jazz music and pulsating, dreamlike, sometimes nightmarish animation. They also produced two 20-minute educational features that combined live action and animation to explain Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection. To watch Max Fleischer (and Koko) battling a fly, look below. To see his Einstein film, look below that. To see Betty Boop vamping for Halloween, look at the bottom.
“The ‘Out of the Inkwell’ series set the trend for Fleischer cartoons to come; they had a certain self-awareness about them, it was as if all participating (Koko included) knew that they were part of a cartoon and in turn they worked the medium accordingly. Fleischer was certainly not the first animator to mix the real world with the cartoon one, but he certainly did it like no other.” —Noell Wolfgram Evans, “The Technical Innovation of Max Fleischer”
July 18: Thomas Kuhn and the “Paradigm Shift”
Historian and philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn, author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), was born in Cincinnati on this date in 1922. His immensely influential book claimed that the progress of science is marked by periodic “paradigm shifts” that open up new understandings of reality unimagined based on previous scientific knowledge, and that scientific truth, at any point in human development, is not a matter of objective fact but of consensus within the scientific community. The Copernican Revolution, for example (as described in his first book in 1957) involved “a transformation of mathematical astronomy, but it embraced conceptual changes in cosmology, physics, philosophy, and religion as well” and “could only be assimilated by men able to create a new physics, a new conception of space, and a new idea of man’s relation to God.” Kuhn’s concept of subjectivity in science very much influenced feminist and postmodernist thought in the so-called social sciences. His teaching years were spent primarily at MIT, although he taught also at Berkeley and Princeton. Kuhn died at 73 in 1996.
“Under normal conditions the research scientist is not an innovator but a solver of puzzles, and the puzzles upon which he concentrates are just those which he believes can be both stated and solved within the existing scientific tradition.” —Thomas Kuhn