Sigmund Freud: The Father of Psychoanalysis

Sigmund Freud: The Father of Psychoanalysis

Sigmund Freud, born on the 6th May 1856 in Freiberg in Mähren, Moravia, Austrian Empire, was an neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis. Freud was born to Galician Jewish parents, and his father, Jakob Freud was a wool merchant who came from a family of Hasidic Jews. Amalia Nathansohn was Jakob’s third wife and the mother of Sigmund Freud.

Sigmund Freud is the founder of psychoanalysis; he so meticulously detailed his theories in his writings which include but are not limited to: Civilisation and its Discontents (1930), and a General Introduction to Psychoanalysis (1917).

In 1859 the Freud family left Freiberg and relocated to Vienna. Sigmund Freud subsequently entered a prominent High School, Leopoldstädter Kommunal-Realgymnasium, at nine years old, and graduated with honours in 1873.

A photograph of Sigmund Freud with his mother, Amalia Freud, in 1872. Freud was 16-years-old in this photo.

A photograph of Sigmund Freud with his mother, Amalia Freud, in 1872. Freud was 16-years-old in this photo.

Planning to study Law at the University of Vienna, Freud, then aged 17, joined the medical faculty in which his studies consisted of philosophy, physiology and zoology under then-prominent professors. After a series of research stints, in 1879, Freud was summoned to undertake a year’s compulsory military service. Thereafter, in March 1881, Freud graduated with an MD. In 1885, Freud travelled to Paris as a student of the neurologist Jean Charcot. A year later, Freud returned to Vienna to initiate his private practice. In addition, he married Martha Bernays, having six children. Sigmund and Martha first met in April of 1882 and married on the 14th September 1886. Martha came from an observant Orthodox Jewish family, and was described as an attractive, charming and intelligent woman, fond of reading.

With the rise of the Nazi Party, Freud’s books became prohibited throughout the Third Reich. After the Nazis seized control of Vienna, they subsequently confiscated Freud’s possessions. Princess Marie Bonaparte, Napoleon’s great-grandniece, potentially saved Freud’s life as she paid the for Freud, his wife, and his youngest sister to get to London as his own accounts had been frozen. His 4 older sisters all died in concentration camps.

Sigmund Freud smoking a cigar in c. 1921. Colorization by  Andreas Larsson

Sigmund Freud smoking a cigar in c. 1921. Colorization by Andreas Larsson

Freud’s ideas are a legacy to modern human psychology and psychotherapy. These ideas include seduction theory, the unconscious mind, dreams, the id, ego and super-ego, religion, and sexuality. Most notable amongst his theories are that human beings are in a constant struggle between their sexual and aggressive desires – which seek to be fulfilled - and the barricades that inhibit their activities.

The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), Freud’s seminal book on dream analysis, puts forth that “[dreams] are the royal road to the unconscious”. He also ideated that dreams represent the hidden fulfilment of unconscious desires and wishes; importantly, this fulfilment of the unconscious can be applied in what we see as the “virtuous man [who] contents himself with dreaming that which the wicked does in actual life”. Carl Jung, Swiss psychoanalyst, would later carry on Freud’s legacy in dream theories.

A colorized photograph of Sigmund Freud in 1914 at the age of 58. Colorization by  Marina Amaral

A colorized photograph of Sigmund Freud in 1914 at the age of 58. Colorization by Marina Amaral

Another hallmark of Freud’s work was his idea of the ‘Oedipus Complex’. This theory suggested that children have an unconscious and repressed desire for sexual intimacy with a parent of the opposite sex.

Freud’s work on religion and religious belief, The Future of an Illusion (1927), and Moses and Monotheism (1938), discuss the origins and development of religion, along with its future. Further, Freud theorised that religion was an ‘illusion’ stating in The Future of an Illusion “[where] questions of religion are concerned, people are guilty of every possible sort of dishonesty and intellectual misdemeanour”. Moreover, Freud believed that religion, the belief and trust in religion, was the unconscious minds’ way for fulfilling wishes that pervaded into the desirous eradication of guilt whilst maintaining security.

A colorized photograph of an elderly Sigmund Freud in c. 1930s. Colorization by Unknown.

A colorized photograph of an elderly Sigmund Freud in c. 1930s. Colorization by Unknown.

Freud died on the 23rd September 1939, after undergoing over 30 surgeries to treat his cancer of the jaw. Freud’s body was cremated at the Golders Green Crematorium in North London. His ashes rest on a plinth in a sealed ancient Greek krater, or vase, depicting Dionysian scenes which was in fact a gift given from Princess Marie Bonaparte.

A color photograph of an 83-year-old Sigmund Freud in 1939. He died in September of that year. Colorization by  Mohamed Bayouli

A color photograph of an 83-year-old Sigmund Freud in 1939. He died in September of that year. Colorization by Mohamed Bayouli

About the author: Marco Papageorgiou

All of us share one aspect of being – we all have a history; we all will have a history. For me, history represents a cauldron of where we should take our learnings. A knowledge base. I came to read history through my father, a lover of ancient Greek, Roman, Persian and Egyptian history and pre-history. Importantly, I came to really love history through photography. A picture holds the power to explain a moment, a decade or even a century.
 
Marco Papageorgiou is a science and technology writer with a substantial amount of content writing to his name. Marco completed his science education in Melbourne, Australia.

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