Elza Kučera

The photo of E. Kučera was provided by the National and University Library

22.10.1883 – 10.6.1972

… in my apartment at 14 Jurjevska Street, I set up a psychological laboratory of sorts, since no other opportunities for practicing experimental psychology were available to me at the time. There, I researched the rules that govern emotional life through the controlled self-observation of my collaborators.

Elza Kučera, librarian, psychologist and philosopher, was born in Vinkovci in 1883. As the daughter of the famous Croatian scientist Oton Kučera, she grew up in a well-off middle-class family. After graduating from the Girls’ Lyceum in Zagreb in 1902, she began studying psychology and special philosophy in Vienna before continuing her studies in Zagreb and then Zürich. There, she obtained a doctorate in 1909, thus becoming the first Croatian woman to obtain a Ph.D. in philosophy.

Between 1933 and 1938, she collaborated with Ramiro Bujas, the founder of the discipline of psychology in Croatia, at the Institute of Psychology. She made significant contributions to the development of experimental psychology in Croatia and harbored a particular interest in the psychodermal effect. A firm believer in the merits of psychology as an empirical science, she conducted experiments in a small laboratory which she had set up in her own apartment.

In addition to authoring a number of scientific papers and books on the psychology of emotions and the psychological foundations of ethical conduct, she encouraged the establishment of philosophical colloquia in Zagreb, and co-founded Revija za filozofiju i psihologiju (The Philosophy and Psychology Review) in 1927.

Furthermore, she was the first woman to be hired as a librarian at the University Library in Zagreb, where she held a variety of positions, including – due to the breadth of her knowledge – that of the deputy principal for over 20 years. She retired in 1944.

Elza authored several papers on the position of women in library science, including Ženski rad u bibliotekama (Women’s Work in Libraries), published in the magazine Domaće ognjište (initially edited by Marija Jambrišak and Jagoda Truhelka). She was also an active member of the Zagreb branch of the Association of University-Educated Women of Yugoslavia, a member of the German Society for Psychology, and the Croatian Society of Librarians, as well as a co-founder of the Society of the Librarians of Croatia in 1948. 

Elza Kučera died in Zagreb in 1972. She shares a tomb with her friend, German teacher and translator Camilla Lucerna, about whose life and work she had written in 1938.

Foto of location: Fred Romero, Flickr

Croatian State Archives (former University Library building), Marko Marulić Square, Zagreb

The Secession building of the former Royal University Library and the State Archives was erected in 1913 on Marko Marulić Square as part of the urban complex of the so-called Lenuzzi's Horseshoe. It featured the works of some of the most notable artists of the era. Among them, there was only one woman, Mila Wod, Croatia's first trained female sculptor, whose decorative relief is featured in the interior. Today, the building houses the Croatian State Archives, whereas the National and University Library had been relocated to a new building in 1995.