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Franzeska Baumgarten-Tramer

Born 1886-09-26
Died 1970-01-01

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Swiss psychologist, born September 26, 1883, Lodz, Poland; died March 1, 1970, Berne, Switzerland.

Biography of Franzeska Baumgarten-Tramer

Despite the fact that her work was translated into 14 languages, Franzeska Baumgarten-Tramer is little known in Switzerland. Even among scientists in the field of mental gifts her work on the choice of profession is mostly forgotten. However, her work Wunderkinder (Gifted Children) is sometimes referred to.

Franzeska Baumgarten grew up in a typical upper class Jewish intellectual environment, the daughter of a Jewish textile manufacturer who was enthusiastic about socialistic ideas. She had an elder brother an three younger sisters. Franzeska, who spoke both Polish and German, first attended a private school, before entering a Gymnasium for girls. Lacking interest in the school, her performance was rather poor. She was more interested in the philosophical and literary works in her father’s library. In the Gymnasium she advocated subversive ideas and wanted to become a journalist.

She began studies in literature and philosophy in Krakow in 1905. However, because her Russian papers were not accepted she was not allowed to matriculate. Following the death of her father in 1906 she she moved to Paris to study philosophy, physics and chemistry. One of her teachers there was Marie Curie. In 1907 she returned to Krakow. Wanting to obtain a doctorate, in 1908 she moved to the University of Zürich, where she was allowed to immatriculate.

In Zürich she studied history, philosophy, anthropolgy and psychology. Her doctoral dissertation, Die Erkenntnislehre von Maine de Biran, eine historische Studie (1911), was given a magna cum laude. She was introduced to experimental psychology by Oswald Külpe (1862-1915) in Bonn and in 1911 she moved on to Berlin to become a pupil of the Harvard professor Hugo Münsterberg (1863-1916), the founder of psychotechnics.

From 1911 to 1914 Franciszka Baumgarten again lived in Lodz where she gave lectures on psychotechnics and psychoanalysis. In 1914, during a holliday, increasing war turmoil forced her to travel to Berlin, where she spent the next ten years. Here she could make a name for herself, working with contacts to personalities like Otto Lipmann, Curt Piorkowski and William Stern. Not succeeding in her plan to investigate Russian prisoners of war she concentrated her efforts on investigating job fitness, and found a position in the Berlin City library. The period 1914 to 19124, was her most productive scientific years. .

From 1917 she specialised in applied psychology, in which field she did extensive research, strongly influenced by the Swiss psychologist Édouard Claparède (1873-1940). He had established the „Internationale Vereinigung für Psychotechnik“ and introduced Baumgarten to psychotechnics.

In 1924, Baumgarten became a member of the commission for testing espcially gifted pupils in the Belin schools. She had published on such testing aleready in 1921. Besides this, she attended seminars by Köhler in order to be informed about Gestalt psychology. She became a member of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für experimentelle Psychologie and developed several psychotechnical apparatuses which seh had patented.

In 1924 she moved to Switzerland to marry the child psychiatrist Moritz Tramer (1882-1963), director of the Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Rosegg in Solothurn. The couple first lived in Solothurn, before moving to Bern. The two supported each others work and published both jointly and separately. For Baumgarten the move represented a great change in life, from the world metropol Berlin, to a small city without all her valuable contacts in Berlin. As a woman, a foreigner, and Jewish. Despite her continued publishing and her international recognition, the University of Bern did not give habilitation, although she was recommended by professor Sganzini at the University of Bern. Finally, in 1928, she achieved the habilitation with the work Die Berufseignungsprüfungen. Theorie und Praxis, becoming Privatdozentin.

However, her marginalisation at the University of Bern continued, and her work on the psychology og work met with less than enthusiasm, particularly in the Psychotechnisches Institut Zürich (now Institut für Angewandte Psychologie) headed by Alfred Carrard (1889-1948). In 1931, Baumgarten therefore founded the Arbeitsgemeinschaft für praktische Psychologie in order to combat the dilettantism in the field. From 1953 she was an honorary professor for work psychology and psychotechnics at the chair of psychology and psychotechnics. She was neither professor ordinary nor professor extraordinary. Baumgarten’s pioneering work had a direct influence on work counseling in Switzerland

In 1938, Baumgarten-Tramer embarked on the perhaps most ambitious study to date on the development of gratitude in youth. She asked 1059 school childred ages 7-15 in the city of Berne, Switzerland two questions: a: What is your greatest wish, b: What would you do for the person who granted you the wish?

Four types of gratitude emerged. Verbal gratefulness (e.g. “I should thank him), Concrete gratefulness occurs when the child wants to give the benefactor something back for the gift, Connective gratitude is an attempt by the beneficiary to create a spititual relationship with the benefactor (“I would help him in case of need”). Finalistic gratefulness is the tendency of the child or youth to reciprocate for the realization of his wish by an action which would in some way be helpful for the object or the situation desired, of would promote their personal development.

Baumgarten originated the first experimental works in the field of characterology. Se also recognised the importance of the connection between character traits and the inclination to choose certain professions. Se introduced several tests for personality assessment that are still in use.


Following Second World War she reestablished the Internationale Vereinigung für Psychotechnik and in the autumn of 1949 organised the International Congress for Psychotechnics in Bern.

She was emerited in 1954 but remained active until shortly before her death in 1970. Se died poor in a hospital.

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