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March 31, 2017 | History

Fredric Wertham

20 March 1895 - 18 November 1981

Fredric Wertham was born in Munich. After studying mecicin in Germany and Enlgand, he was influenced by the work of Sigmun Freud and decided to specialize in psychiatry. In 1922 he moved to the U.S. to join Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland, and he became a U.S. citizen in 1927. In 1932 he moved to New York City to examine convicted felons for the New York Court of General Sessions. In 1946 he opened a clinic in the basement of St. Philip's Church in Harlem, where he specializing in treating black teenagers.

In 1954 he published his most influential work, Seduction of the Innocent, in which he described the lurid violence, sex, drug use, and other crimes depicted in comic books (including crime, superhero and horror comics) and his belief — stated as fact — that these books have harmful effects on the childhood development. In addition to the obvious violence and sexual titillation, he also found hidden sexual imagery in background drawings as well as evidence that Batman and Robin were romantically involved and Wonder Woman was a lesbian. Public shock at these revelations led to a U.S. Congressional inquiry into the comic book industry and resulted in the creation of the Comics Code. In 1953 he also appeared before the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, to which he testified about the link between comic books and juvenile crime. As a result, comic book publishers voluntarily adopted the Comics Code Authority to censor their own content.

Wertham went on to write on other topics of interest to him, such as the psychological effects of racial segregation, or how medical professionals worked with Nazis in the German holocaust. He worked as a professor of psychiatry at New York University, a senior psychiatrist in the New York City Department of Hospitals, and a psychiatrist and the director of the Mental Hygiene Clinic at the Bellevue Hospital Center.

He died in 1981 at his retirement home in Kempton, Pennsylvania at age 86.

Wertham's research papers were donated to the Library of Congress in 2010, and as a result they became publicly available. Investigation into them records has shown that his research did not support the conclusions he made in Seduction of the Innocent, and that his warnings about the harmful effects of comic books are largely baseless.

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March 31, 2017 Edited by Clean Up Bot add VIAF and wikidata ID
November 21, 2013 Edited by caf21 Added Wikipedia page
November 21, 2013 Edited by caf21 Added link
November 21, 2013 Edited by caf21 Added name variations
April 1, 2008 Created by an anonymous user initial import