Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud (froid), 1856–1939, Austrian psychiatrist, founder of psychoanalysis. Born in Moravia, he lived most of his life in Vienna, receiving his medical degree from the Univ. of Vienna in 1881.

His medical career began with an apprenticeship (1885–86) under J. M. Charcot in Paris, and soon after his return to Vienna he began his famous collaboration with Josef Breuer on the use of hypnosis in the treatment of hysteria. Their paper, On the Psychical Mechanism of Hysterical Phenomena (1893, tr. 1909), more fully developed in Studien über Hysterie (1895), marked the beginnings of psychoanalysis in the discovery that the symptoms of hysterical patients—directly traceable to psychic trauma in earlier life—represent undischarged emotional energy (conversion; see hysteria). The therapy, called the cathartic method, consisted of having the patient recall and reproduce the forgotten scenes while under hypnosis. The work was poorly received by the medical profession, and the two men soon separated over Freud's growing conviction that the undefined energy causing conversion was sexual in nature.

Freud then rejected hypnosis and devised a technique called free association (see association), which would allow emotionally charged material that the individual had repressed in the unconscious to emerge to conscious recognition. Further works, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900, tr. 1913), The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1904, tr. 1914), and Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905, tr. 1910), increased the bitter antagonism toward Freud, and he worked alone until 1906, when he was joined by the Swiss psychiatrists Eugen Bleuler and C. G. Jung, the Austrian Alfred Adler, and others.

In 1908, Bleuler, Freud, and Jung founded the journal Jahrbuch für psychoanalytische und psychopathologische Forschungen, and in 1909 the movement first received public recognition when Freud and Jung were invited to give a series of lectures at Clark Univ. in Worcester, Mass. In 1910 the International Psychoanalytical Association was formed with Jung as president, but the harmony of the movement was short-lived: between 1911 and 1913 both Jung and Adler resigned, forming their own schools in protest against Freud's emphasis on infantile sexuality and the Oedipus complex. Although these men, and others who broke away later, objected to Freudian theories, the basic structure of psychoanalysis as the study of unconscious mental processes is still Freudian. Disagreement lies largely in the degree of emphasis placed on concepts largely originated by Freud.

He considered his last contribution to psychoanalytic theory to be The Ego and the Id (1923, tr. 1927), after which he reverted to earlier cultural preoccupations. Totem and Taboo (1913, tr. 1918), an investigation of the origins of religion and morality, and Moses and Monotheism (1939, tr. 1939) are the result of his application of psychoanalytic theory to cultural problems. Other works include A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis (1910, tr. 1920) and New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis (1933). With the National Socialist occupation of Austria, Freud fled (1938) to England, where he died the following year. His daughter, Anna Freud, was a major proponent of psychoanalysis, developing in particular the Freudian concept of the defense mechanism.

Freudian theory has had wide impact, influencing fields as diverse as anthropology, education, art, and literary criticism. At the same time, his work has been criticized by many for containing flawed or misrepresented research and for being pseudoscientfic in nature. It has also been criticized by feminists as being marred by a male bias.


See his Basic Writings (tr. and ed. by A. A. Brill, 1938, repr., 1977); The Freud-Jung Letters (ed. by W. McGuire, 1974, repr. 1988); biographies by E. Jones (3 vol., 1953–57, abr. ed. 1974) and P. Gay (1988, repr. 2006) and of his early life by A. Phillips (2014); studies by F. Cioffi (1973 and 1998), P. Roazen (1975), Frank J. Sulloway (1979), H. Lewis (2 vol., 1981–83), S. Schneiderman (1987), O. Olson and S. Koppe (1988), I. Gubrich-Simitis (1993, tr. 1997), L. Breger (2000), A. I. Tauber (2010), H. Markel (2011), and M. Borch-Jacobsen and S. Shamdasani (2012).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Sigmund Freud: Selected full-text books and articles

Sigmund Freud By Robert Bocock Routledge, 2002 (Revised edition)
Freud: A Life for Our Time By Peter Gay W. W. Norton, 1998
The Concepts of Sigmund Freud By Bartlett H. Stoodley Free Press, 1959
The Ego and the ID By Sigmund Freud; Joan Riviere Hogarth Press; Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1927
FREE! A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis By Sigmund Freud Horace Liveright, 1920
Beyond the Pleasure Principle By Sigmund Freud; James Strachey; James Strachey W. W. Norton, 1961
Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality By Sigmund Freud; James Strachey; James Strachey Basic Books, 2000
FREE! Psychopathology of Everyday Life By Sigmund Freud Macmillan, 1916
The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud By Sigmund Freud; A. A. Brill; A. A. Brill Modern Library, 1938
Freud's Wishful Dream Book By Alexander Welsh Princeton University Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: This is a commentary on Freud's "The Interpretation of Dreams"
Freud and Jung on Religion By Michael Palmer Routledge, 1997
Freud, Psychoanalysis, and Symbolism By Agnes Petocz Cambridge University Press, 1999
Freud and the Passions By John O'Neill Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996
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