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G. E. Sukhareva's place in the history of autism research: Context, reception, translation

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posted on 2021-12-07, 17:04 authored by Simmonds, Charlotte

Grunya Efimovna Sukhareva was a Soviet child psychiatrist and neurologist who described an autism-like condition closely resembling Asperger’s syndrome about 20 years before Hans Asperger and Leo Kanner published their descriptions of autistic psychopathy and early infantile autism, first naming it schizoid psychopathy (1925), later renaming it autistic psychopathy (1959). While autistic-like syndromes were repeatedly described independently in many countries in the first half of the 20th century, Sukhareva seems to have been the only person to give a detailed description of the syndrome’s presentation in girls and its sex differences. Considered the founder of child psychiatry in Russia, she is little known elsewhere, despite a significant portion of her work being written in German. Awareness of Sukhareva and her work has been slowly making its way into autistic history, largely as a result of the 1996 publication of Sula Wolff’s translation of the 1926 case studies on schizoid psychopathy in boys, but the large majority of her work remains untranslated from German and/or Russian and inaccessible to many people. Her 1927 paper of case studies on girls, describing sex differences similar to those being described now, are virtually unknown even in German texts.  Including the translation of Sukhareva’s German-language paper on schizoid psychopathy in girls, summaries of her Russian-language texts on the syndrome, and what is hoped is a comprehensive bibliography of her published work, this thesis seeks to place Sukhareva’s work and its reception within the wider context of research into autistic-like syndromes in Anglo-European medical literature, and to understand the impact of domestic and international politics of the 20th century on child psychiatry and the international exchange of scientific knowledge. The thesis also corrects misinformation found in some recent popular histories of autism.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



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Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Languages and Cultures


Ellenbroek, Bart; Tempian, Monica; Sutherland, Margaret

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