Freud, Sigmund 1856 – 1939

  Medical doctor and founder of psychoanalysis. Born Sigismund Freud on May 6, 1856, in Freiberg, Moravia (now Pribor in the Czech Republic). At the age of four, Freud’s family relocated to Vienna, where he lived and worked for the majority of his life. Freud attended medical school at the University of Vienna where he focused his studies on biology for six years, under the renowned German scientist Ernst Brücke. In 1881, Freud received his medical degree and initially sought work at Vienna General Hospital before setting up a private practice in the treatment of psychological disorders.

  In 1885, Freud went to Paris where he became familiar with the technique of hypnosis. He soon deemed the effects of hypnosis as temporary and adopted an alternative method of treatment suggested by his friend Josef Breuer. Breuer felt that if troubled patients were encouraged to talk freely their symptoms would eventually subside ?hence the term “free association.? Freud and Breur further collaborated and developed the notion that many phobias were rooted in traumatic childhood experiences. The two doctors formulated that a patient needed to confront these past issues in order to let go of the phobia. They published their theory in Studies in Hysteria(1894), and their findings were considered revolutionary.

  Freud and Breuer eventually parted because of differences in opinion (Breuer felt that Freud placed too much emphasis on sexuality). Freud continued to work on his own and in 1900 he published The Interpretation of Dreams, which documented his own self-analysis. The book defined dreams as representations of repressed desires and was widely considered Freud’s greatest work.

  In his studies of child development, Freud concluded that between the ages of three and five children reached a turning point where they felt a strong attraction to the parent of the opposite sex (the Oedipal and Electra stages). Freud’s bold psychoanalytic theory, with its emphasis on sexuality, was thought to be scandalous and generally not well received. However, in 1908 the first International Psychoanalytical Congress was held in Saltzburg. Shortly after, Freud received recognition for his feats in psychology and a year later he was called upon to give lectures in America.

  Freudian theory was built upon the foundations of both medical science and philosophy. As a scientist, Freud was interested in seeing how the human mind affected the body particularly by studying paranoia, hysteria, and other mental illnesses. As a theorist, he explored basic truths about how personalities are formed. In 1923, Freud ventured so far as to develop a model of the human mind, consisting of three elements -- the ego, the id, and the superego. During his creatively productive life, Freud published over twenty volumes of theory and clinical studies in which he coined concepts and terms, including libido, subconscious and inferiority complex, that permeated Western culture.

  In 1886, Freud married Martha Bernays with whom he had six children. Anna Freud, the youngest child, served as a subject in many of Freud’s child development studies. The two maintained an extremely close relationship, and Anna became her father’s colleague and eventually his successor. In 1937, Freud sought asylum in England following Hitler’s annexation of Austria and a ban on psychoanalysis. Freud and his family settled in Hampstead, London until his death from mouth cancer in 1939.