Dr. Leonard Shengold, 94, Psychoanalyst Who Studied Child Abuse, Dies


“Len was well aware that the impact of trauma was modified by unconscious fantasies, and that one never got a totally accurate depiction of a traumatic experiences,” Dr. Blum said in a phone interview.


Leonard Shengold was born on Dec. 5, 1925, in Syracuse, N.Y. His parents were immigrants from cities that were then still part of the Russian empire: His father, Chaim, a watchmaker, came from Minsk; his mother, Sonia (Kosofsky) Shengold, a homemaker, was from Vilna.

Leonard was 5 years old when his father started suffering severe angina attacks, prompting his mother to caution him, “You mustn’t get him excited; it might kill him,” he recalled in an interview with the International Forum of Psychoanalysis in 2011. “And as soon as she said that, I could tell from her face how distressed she was to have said it. She started to cry and I started to cry. Perhaps I had an early talent for empathy.”

His father died seven years later.

Leonard, a bookish youngster, attended Syracuse University for one semester before transferring to Columbia College, where one of his teachers, the renowned literary critic Lionel Trilling, sparked his interest in Freud and psychoanalysis.

At 18 he entered the Army, where he served first as an air-to-ground radio operator in India and then as a clerk in North Africa and Saudi Arabia after the Japanese surrender. He brought two books with him to the war that reflected his literary and scientific interests: Proust’s “Remembrance of Things Past” and Freud’s “Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis.”

He graduated from Columbia in 1947 with a bachelor’s degree in English and earned a medical degree at the Long Island College of Medicine (now SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University) four years later. He received training at the Psychoanalytic Institute and Clinic at Downstate (now the Psychoanalytic Association of New York, which is affiliated with the New York University School of Medicine).

Over his 60-year career, Dr. Shengold saw patients privately; was a training analyst at the institute, as well as its director from 1975 to 1978; and taught psychiatry at N.Y.U. He received the prestigious Sigourney Award, for work advancing psychoanalysis, in 1997.

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