The long-lost remains of Alfred Adler, one of the founding fathers of psychoanalysis, have been rediscovered in a crematorium in Edinburgh nearly 74 years after he died suddenly on a lecture tour.
Adler, a core figure with Sigmund Freud in the group that founded the psychoanalytic movement before the pair split in 1911, collapsed after a suspected heart attack in May 1937 while he was in Aberdeen for a three-week-long series of lectures and seminars at the university.
The Viennese doctor, credited with developing the theory of the inferiority complex, was cremated alone, and his widow and surviving children lost track of his ashes. For the following 70 years their location remained a mystery to his family, his followers and Adlerian scholars.
Later this month, however, his ashes will be returned to Vienna for a civic ceremony following a remarkable discovery by the honorary Austrian consul to Scotland, John Clifford.
Asked to trace Adler's remains by the institute he founded in Vienna, Clifford traced the casket to a crematorium only a few hundred metres behind the consulate in Edinburgh. They had been stored there in a quiet, wood-panelled gallery rarely visited by the public, alongside dozens of other caskets and urns.
His US-based granddaughter, Margot Adler, said his family thought Adler's remains were lost. "The first story I had heard was that the remains had disappeared ... They thought they were supposed to be in Aberdeen.
"The next story I heard was that I got some letters or an article about three Viennese Adlerian students going on a search ... and then I heard about John's discovery."
Margot, the daughter of Adler's only son, Kurt, said it was customary within the family to be cremated. In 1937, Scotland's only crematorium was at Warriston in Edinburgh, so after a funeral attended by Aberdeen university's most senior academics, his body was sent south.
It appears the family heard nothing more. Europe was on the brink of war, and Adler's wife, Raissa, had been living in the United States since 1932.
They believed he died partly from stress, she said. Then 67, he had just learned that his oldest and favourite daughter, Valentina, a committed communist, had been sent to a Soviet gulag in one of Stalin's purges. Many of the family were socialists, and the Adlers were friends of Leon Trotsky and his wife.
Margot Alder found references to Valentina's disappearance in her own family papers, in a letter from Albert Einstein asking about her aunt.
"Our family wasn't the kind of family which cared about remains. I don't think anyone gave it much thought. Remember this happened in 1937 and then the war came. I think during the war, that was the last thing on anybody's mind," she said.
She believes her father would have been delighted that Adler's ashes were being returned to Vienna. Adler was made a freeman of Vienna in 1930, before fascism took hold. "Vienna was essentially Adler's home, his birth home and there was the triangle, you know, Adler, Jung and Freud, and all had that sense of coming out of that place, so there's something rather fitting about him going back there. I think it's kind of wonderful actually."
Later this month, Clifford will represent the Austrian ambassador in a formal handover ceremony at the crematorium with Edinburgh's lord provost, George Grubb, and members of the Society for Individual Psychology established by Adler in Vienna in 1912.
The ceremony is likely to strengthen links between the Adlerians and the Scottish Institute for Human Relations, which practises psychotherapy. "They were overjoyed. These people have been looking for their father figure," Clifford said.