Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, smok...

Sigmund Freud

Born: May 6, 1856
Died: September 23, 1939

Best Known For:

  • Founder of psychoanalysis.
  • Theory of Psychosexual Development
  • The Id, Ego, and Superego
  • Dream interpretation
  • Free association

Contributions to Psychology:
Regardless of the perception of Sigmund Freud’s theories, there is no question that he had an enormous impact on the field of psychology. His work supported the belief that not all mental illnesses have physiological causes and he also offered evidence that cultural differences have an impact on psychology and behavior. His work and writings contributed to our understanding of personality, clinical psychology, human development and abnormal psychology.
Freud also influenced many other prominent psychologists, including his daughter Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, Karen Horney, Alfred Alder, Erik Erikson, and Carl Jung.
Selected Publications by Sigmund Freud:

  • (1895) Studies in Hysteria
  • (1900) The Interpretation of Dreams
  • (1901) The Psychopathology of Everyday Life
  • (1905) Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality
  • (1905) Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria
  • (1923) The Ego and the Id
  • (1930) Civilization and its Discontents
  • (1939) Moses and Monotheism

Biographies of Sigmund Freud:

  • Breger, Louis (2000). Freud: Darkness in the Midst of Vision–An Analytical Biography
  • Ferris, Paul (1999). Dr. Freud: A Life
  • Gay, Peter (1998). Freud : A Life for Our Time
  • Roazen, Paul (1992). Freud and His Followers


When he was young, Sigmund Freud’s family moved from Frieberg, Moravia to Vienna where he would spend most of his life. His parents taught him at home before entering him in Spurling Gymnasium, where he was first in his class and graduated Summa cum Laude.

After studying medicine at the University of Vienna, Freud worked and gained respect as a physician. Through his work with respected French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, Freud became fascinated with the emotional disorder known as hysteria. Later, Freud and his friend and mentor Dr. Josef Breuer introduced him to the case study of a patient known as Anna O., who was really a woman named Bertha Pappenheim. Her symptoms included a nervous cough, tactile anesthesia and paralysis. Over the course of her treatment, the woman recalled several traumatic experiences, which Freud and Breuer believed contributed to her illness.

The two physicians concluded that there was no organic cause for Anna O’s difficulties, but that having her talk about her experiences had a calming effect on the symptoms. Freud and Breuer published the work Studies in Hysteria in 1895. It was Bertha Pappenheim herself who referred to the treatment as “the talking cure.”

Later works include The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) and Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905). These works became world famous, but Freud’s theory of psychosexual stages has long been a subject of criticism and debate. While his theories are often viewed with skepticism, Freud’s work continues to influence psychology and many other disciplines to this day.

The Life, Work and Theories of Sigmund Freud:

Psychology’s most famous figure is also one of the most influential and controversial thinkers of the twentieth century. Sigmund Freud’s work and theories helped shape our views of childhood, personality, memory, sexuality and therapy. Other major thinkers have contributed work that grew out of Freud’s legacy, while others developed new theories out of opposition to his ideas.

In 2001, Time Magazine referred to Freud as one of the most important thinkers of the last century. A 2006 Newsweek article called him “history’s most debunked doctor.” While his theories have been the subject of considerable controversy and debate, his impact on psychology, therapy, and culture is undeniable. As W.H. Auden wrote in his 1973 poem, In Memory of Sigmund Freud,

“if often he was wrong and, at times, absurd,
to us he is no more a person
now but a whole climate of opinion.”

Freud’s Life:

Our exploration of Freud’s legacy begins with a look at his life and time. Learn more about his life in this brief biography and timeline of his life, discover some of his most famous quotations or take an in-depth photo tour of his life from birth to death.

Freud’s Major Theories:

Freud’s theories were enormously influential, but subject to considerable criticism both now and during his own life. However, his ideas have become interwoven into the fabric of our culture, with terms such as “Freudian slip,” “repression” and “denial” appearing regularly in everyday language.

  • The Conscious and Unconscious Mind
  • The Id, Ego, and Superego
  • Life and Death Instincts
  • Psychosexual Development
  • Defense Mechanisms
  • What Is a Freudian Slip?

Freud and Psychoanalysis:

Freud’s ideas had such a strong impact on psychology that an entire school of thought emerged from his work. While it was eventually replaced by the rise of behaviorism, psychoanalysis had a lasting impact on both psychology and psychotherapy.

Major Works by Freud:

Freud’s writings detail many of his major theories and ideas, including his personal favorite, The Interpretation of Dreams. “[It] contains… the most valuable of all the discoveries it has been my good fortune to make. Insight such as this falls to one’s lot but once in a lifetime,” he explained. Some of his major books include:

  • The Interpretation of Dreams
  • The Psychopathology of Everyday Life
  • Totem and Taboo
  • Civilization and Its Discontents
  • The Future is an Illusion

Freud’s Perspectives:

Freud wrote and theorized about a broad range of subjects including sex, dreams, religion, women and culture. Learn more about some of Freud’s perspectives and how these views influenced his own theories.

  • Freud and Women
  • Freud and Religion

Psychologists Influenced by Freud:

In addition to his grand and far-reaching theories of human psychology, Freud also left his mark on a number of individuals who went on to become some of psychology’s greatest thinkers. Some of the eminent psychologists who were influenced by Sigmund Freud include:

  • Anna Freud
  • Alfred Adler
  • Carl Jung
  • Erik Erikson
  • Melanie Klein
  • Ernst Jones
  • Otto Rank

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