Freud, Sigmund


Freud, Sigmund

biographical name

(born May 6, 1856, Freiberg, Moravia, Austrian Empire—died Sept. 23, 1939, London, Eng.) Austrian neuropsychologist, founder of psychoanalysis, and one of the major intellectual figures of the 20th century. Trained in Vienna as a neurologist, Freud went to Paris in 1885 to study with Jean-Martin Charcot, whose work on hysteria led Freud to conclude that mental disorders might be caused purely by psychological rather than organic factors. Returning to Vienna (1886), Freud collaborated with the physician Josef Breuer (1842–1925) in further studies on hysteria, resulting in the development of some key psychoanalytic concepts and techniques, including free association, the unconscious, resistance (later defense mechanisms), and neurosis. In 1899 he published The Interpretation of Dreams, in which he analyzed the complex symbolic processes underlying dream formation: he proposed that dreams are the disguised expression of unconscious wishes. In his controversial Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), he delineated the complicated stages of psychosexual development (oral, anal, and phallic) and the formation of the Oedipus complex. During World War I, he wrote papers that clarified his understanding of the relations between the unconscious and conscious portions of the mind and the workings of the id, ego, and superego. Freud eventually applied his psychoanalytic insights to such diverse phenomena as jokes and slips of the tongue, ethnographic data, religion and mythology, and modern civilization. Works of note include Totem and Taboo (1913), Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920), The Future of an Illusion (1927), and Civilization and Its Discontents (1930). Freud fled to England when the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938; he died shortly thereafter. Despite the relentless and often compelling challenges mounted against virtually all of his ideas, both in his lifetime and after, Freud has remained one of the most influential figures in contemporary thought.

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