Sigmund Freud was born on May 6, 1856, in the small Moravian town of Freiberg. His father was a merchant, and his mother was his father’s third wife. Freud and his family moved to the city of Vienna when he was almost four. This was the initial stage of the Hapsburg empire’s liberal era. A lot of religious restrictions and unfair taxes targeted on the Jewish community were repealed. This created a feeling hope that affected the new generation of Jews, including Freud. Freud was a brilliant student and always placed at the top of his class. In 1873, Freud entered the University of Vienna to initially study law.
However, as Freud would put it later, his “greed for knowledge” made him change his major to medicine. Although Freud was more interested in studying the philosophical-scientific aspects of the mind. He especially became interested in neurology and physiology and finally graduated in 1881. Freud’s research was based on close observations and scientific skepticism. However, this skeptical quality was not appreciated by all of his mentors. One mentor especially, Ernst Brucke, did not like Freud’s ideas at all. He even advised Freud to take a lowly position at the Vienna General Hospital.
Freud took this position, but his decision was influenced by certain personal events that would change his life. Freud was secretly engaged to Martha Bernays (one of his sister’s friends), but he did not have enough money to provide a respectable middle class household that his fiancee thought was necessary. In 1886, Freud finally was able to marry and the next nine years he and Martha had six children together. His youngest daughter Anna would later become Freud’s disciple, assistant, and a very good psychoanalyst in her own right. Before his marriage, Freud had worked in Paris with a famous neurologist named Jean-Martin Charcot.
Charcot claimed that he can cure mental disorders using hypnosis. This radical idea deeply influenced Freud and his quest to solve the mysteries of the mind. In 1887, Freud met a nose and throat specialist named Wilhelm Fliess in Berlin. Fliess was a person who did not get shocked by any ideas. This kind of listener was exactly what Freud needed. For the next ten years, Freud and Fliess exchanged ideas and confidential information. It was during this time that Freud was practicing psychoanalysis, especially on female patients with hysteria. In 1895, Freud and his friend Josef Breuer published Studies on Hysteria.
These studies dealt with one of Breur’s patients, “Anna O”. This patient had a series of confidential conversations with both Breur and Freud. She was the patient that Freud would use to prove his idea that hysteria initially originates from certain sexual malfunction. This was also the year when Freud had his famous dream known as “Irma’s Injection”. This was used by his as the model for psychoanalytic dream interpretations, when he published his book Interpretation of Dreams . In 1896, Freud would first use the word “psychoanalysis”. That same year his father would die.
This loss would deeply affect Freud, and even his work to some extent. Freud then started working on his “Dream Book”. He also abandoned the “seduction theory”, a theory that Freud firmly believed in for some time. This theory stated that neurosis occurred in people who were somehow sexually abused when they were a child. Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams was published in 1899. This book was not very popular as only 351 copies were sold in its first six years. However in 1901, Freud published his Psychopathology of Everyday Life. This book was a very popular one, as it dealt with how our mind has a certain set of rules governing it.
In 1902, Freud was finally appointed the associate professor of the University of Vienna. For the next six years, more people came to support Freud and in 1908, Freud and his followers instituted the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. In 1905, Freud published his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. This book dealt with the psychological development of a person’s sex drive ever since childhood. For the next few years, Freud published more papers about the human psychological condition. in both adults and children. His ideas were strongly debated through out the world, as he found himself in the middle of international academic movement.
In 1920, Freud published his pessimistic Beyond the pleasure Principle, that dealt with the human death drive. Three years later, Freud would come out with his Ego and the Id. In this book, Freud gave a structural model of the mind, separating into three parts, the ego, the id and the superego. For the next ten years, Freud continued to write more papers that introduced many new ideas and revised older ones. These papers all would help in building a compact theory that helped to explain the way the human mind works. In 1933, Hitler was nominated as the chancellor of Germany.
This led to increased power of the Austrian Nazis, and a strong feeling of Anti-Semitism. Freud however refused to leave Vienna. In 1938, the Germans were welcomed into the city of Vienna. This was the last straw as Freud prepared to leave Austria. That June Freud would leave for Paris and then London so that he could die in freedom. On September 23, 1939, Freud asked his physician for a lethal dose of morphine, and would eventually die. His death did not stop the spread of his work on psychoanalysis, as Freud’s theories would eventually become one of the most popular fields in the science of psychology.