Sigmund Freud is probably best remembered as the founder of psychoanalysis. Although there are many detractors of his theories, students of psychology are still taught the subject and it is used in some aspects of therapy work.
He was born on the 6th may 1856 in Freiberg in Moravia which is now a part of the Czech Republic. His father was a merchant and he came from Jewish descent. For a time the family lived in Leipzig, but they eventually moved to Vienna where Freud enrolled at the university to study medicine.
He first worked at the Vienna General Hospital and soon began to use clinical hypnosis to treat patients presenting with hysteria. His technique was to put them into a trance and ask them to recall any traumatic events in their past which might have a bearing on their condition in the present. This is a procedure still practised today.
He spent a year in Paris studying under the neurologist Jean Charcot and when he returned to Vienna he set up his own private practice dealing with nervous disorders. Over time he came to form his own theories and believed that we each had an unconscious mind as well as a conscious one. He further suggested that within the unconscious there are sexual and aggressive impulses continually at odds with each other.
He went further saying that these urges could be interpreted through dreams. Although not accepted by many, he was promoted to Professor of Neuropathology at the University of Vienna. He continued to refine his theories and in 1923 produced a new version where he divided up the mind into three areas; the Id, the Ego and the Superego.
Once again, there were a number of detractors and one of these was the Nazi Party, who in 1933, made a point of burning his books along with many others they disagreed with. The threat of war was in the air and being Jewish, Freud moved him and his family to London. He had got married in 1886 to Martha Bernays and they had six children.
But Freud was not in good health. He had first been diagnosed with cancer of the jaw in 1923 and over the years he had undergone over thirty operations to cure the condition. But they failed and he died in London on the 23rd September 1939. Freud’s London home in Hampstead is now a museum.