Pioneering, prodigious and perspicacious: Grunya Efimovna Sukhareva's life and contribution to conceptualising autism and schizophrenia.
Sher DA., Gibson JL.
Grunya Efimovna Sukhareva's seminal role in being the first to publish a clinical description of autistic traits in 1925, before both Kanner and Asperger, has been revealed relatively recently. Nevertheless, Sukhareva's work is little known and largely unrecognised beyond Russia. Amidst calls for greater recognition of her pivotal contribution in the genesis of autism conceptualisation and categorisation, this article provides a biographical and historical background. Sukhareva's wide-ranging psychiatric work is adumbrated and her pioneering efforts in conceptualising both schizophrenia and autism are elucidated. The article reflects on possible explanations for the belated and incomplete recognition of Sukhareva's role. The current article indicates how Sukhareva's work was ahead of its time in reflecting modern criteria for autism diagnoses and in its focus on female case studies. Sukhareva's somewhat precarious position as a foremost psychiatrist condemned in the Stalinist years for being anti-Marxist is explicated. The article outlines further directions for academic research on Sukhareva's work and contributions.