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Anna Berliner Collection

Identifier: MS-75

Scope and Contents

The collection includes material by and about Anna Berliner, including drafts and publications of her writings, a small amount of correspondence, documents relating to her career, and two photographs. These are accompanied by a set of files about Berliner, mostly pertaining to her memorial and to the investigation into her murder. Most of the material is professional rather than personal in character, with the exception of a few letters and notes written in her memory.


  • 1919-1979


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research with the exception of one folder. Psychological research documents in the "Szondi Test Materials" folder may contain information that is protected under privacy laws; please consult archivist.

Conditions Governing Use

Pacific University owns the copyright to some, but not all, of the materials housed in its archives. Copyright for materials authored or otherwise produced as official business of Pacific University is retained by Pacific University and requires its permission for publication. Copyright status for other collection materials varies. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical Note

Anna Berliner was a professor who specialized in the intersections between psychology and optometry. With interests in these fields as well as Japanese language and culture, Berliner had a varied career spanning three continents.

Born with the name Anni Meyer to a German Jewish family in 1888, she studied medicine at the universities of Freiburg and Berlin. At the age of 22, she married Sigfrid Berliner, the brother of one of her school friends. Sigfried was about five years older and had a Ph.D. in Physics. She joined him in Leipzig, where she became the first and only female Ph.D. student to work under Wilhelm Wundt, a reknowned scholar in the field of experimental psychology. After finishing her degree at the University of Leipzig, the couple moved toTokyo, where Sigfried had accepted an appointment as a business professor.

Disasters and political upheavals would disrupt Anna Berliner's life multiple times in the next three decades. Soon after moving to Tokyo, the First World War broke out, and the Berliners were interned as enemy aliens on the island of Shikoku. The Japanese soon required Anna to leave without her husband. She travelled to the United States and eventually found work as a psychologist for the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in New York City. At the close of the war, she moved back to Japan, where Sigfried again took up a post at the university. Anna worked, learned Japanese, and developed an appreciation for Japanese culture. She would later draw on her experiences to write a book on tea ceremony, Der Teekult in Japan. In 1923, the Berliners survived an earthquake that devastated the city of Tokyo. They moved back to Germany, and Anna became the secretary of the European branch of the German East Asiatic Society. After the Nazis came to power, the Berliners had to leave once again. They eventually settled in the United States, where Anna taught Japanese to American students and soldiers during the Second World War. When writing her curriculum vita in the late 1940s, she noted, "Interruptions in the chronological list of professional work are due to two wars, a revolution, the Japanese earthquake and research work."

Berliner transitioned into teaching psychology full-time after the end of the Second World War. As a woman and a German-Jewish refugee who was approaching 60 years of age, the career move presented some difficulties. Nevertheless, for more than 20 years, she would work as a professor of psychology with an emphasis on connections to the field of optometry. She taught at the Northern Illinois College of Optometry from 1946-1947 and then at Pacific University in Oregon from 1949-1969, and was granted emeritus status on her retirement. She published over 20 articles on visual psychology. In 1971, she won the Apollo Award, the highest honor bestowed by the American Optometric Association.

On May 16, 1977, Anna was found stabbed and beaten to death at her home in Forest Grove. She was 88 years old and had been a widow for 15 years. The confessed killer, William James Watkins Jr., was a 14 or 15-year-old Forest Grove high school student. His attorney argued in court that he suffered from a psychiatric condition. According to testimony for the prosecution, Watkins had been trying to take money from Anna, and when she threatened to call the police, he killed her. Watkins was sentenced to life in prison.


1.5 Cubic Feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials



Anna Berliner was a psychology professor who also wrote about Japanese culture and society. The collection includes material by and about her, including writings, correspondence, documents relating to her career, photographs, memorials written about her, and clippings related to her murder.

Related Archival Materials

Anna Berliner's own copy of her book, Der Teekult in Japan (Leipzig: 1930), has been removed for shelving in special collections. Additional photographs of Anna Berliner are located in the Pacific University Archives Photograph Collection, under call numbers 10506, 10557, 10574, 11371 and 14653.
Guide to the Anna Berliner Collection
Eva Guggemos
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
Sponsored by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission

Repository Details

Part of the Pacific University Archives Repository

2043 College Way
Forest Grove OR 97116 United States