Psychobiographical reflections on Viktor von Weizsäcker within the cultural framework of salutogenesis and medical anthropology

Ottomar Bahrs, Claude Hélène Mayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores the life of Viktor von Weizsäcker (VvW, 1886–1957), a German medical doctor, philosopher and founder of the Heidelberg School of Anthropological Medicine, from a psychobiographical and salutogenic perspective. The authors use salutogenesis and sense of coherence (SOC), and take crucial cultural, historical, and socio-structural frameworks into account to explore the life during the 19th and 20th Centuries in Germany. They present the exploration of a strong SOC in the life of VvW and show how SOC is created within the tight family bonds of the family clan, which has produced many extraordinary theologists, philosophers, scientists and politicians over six generations. In a complex, interconnected and holistic way, SOC is evident in von VvW’s individual life, and is also shown to be a family resource. This article contributes to psychobiography in three ways: it develops the salutogenetic perspective in psychobiography, explores the life of VvW within a specific sociocultural context, and investigates the life from a salutogenetic and socio-cultural perspective. Finally, conclusions are drawn, and recommendations for theory and practice are given.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-142
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Review of Psychiatry
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Germany
  • Psychobiography
  • Viktor von Weizsäcker (VvW)
  • anthropological medicine
  • meaningfulness
  • salutogenesis
  • sense of coherence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental Health


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