Sigmund Freud

Researched and written by:  Aimee Husman
I attest that the following biography is a product of my own original work..

"[The] primitive stages can always be re-established; the primitive mind is, in the fullest meaning of the word, imperishable."

"The more the fruits of knowledge become accessible to men, the more widespread is the decline of religious belief."


Childhood/Family Life

 On May 6th 1856 Sigismund Freud was born in Moravian Hamlet of Freiberg, which today is Pribor in the Czech Republic . His name would later be changed to Sigmund when he was twenty-two years old (Schultz, 2004).  Freud was born into a wealthy Jewish family.  He was the first born of six children and had two older brothers from Freud’s fathers previous marriage.  His mother was quite found of Sigmund and she gave him the nickname “golden siggie” (Simon and Schuster, 1999).  Growing up, Freud was very bright and well treated by his parents, he was the only child in his family to have his own room to himself in order for him to get the ample study time that he needed.   When Freud was about five years old his family moved to Vienna after his father failed at a business adventure.  Throughout his young childhood and adolescence, Freud continued to excel in academics and in 1873 he graduated Summa cum laude from secondary school.  Upon his graduation he went on to study medicine at Vienna University. 

Adult Life

 In 1876, he was introduced to a physiology professor by the name of Ernst von Brucke.  Through his help, young Freud was able to get a grant to study with psychiatrist Charcot in Paris.  Freud later went on to work with Bernheim in Nancy (Boeree, 1997).  Both of these men were very interested in investigating hypnosis with people who suffered from hysterics. During his years in college he experimented with cocaine and subsequently used it for most of his life (Schultz, 2004).

In 1881 Freud earned his doctoral degree in medicine at Vienna University.  During this time Freud met his future wife, Martha Bernay and in 1886 they married.  Following his marriage, Freud was able to set up a neuropsychiatry practice from the help of Joseph Beuer; however, Freud gradually discarded the practice.  Freud would go on to have six children and one of them, Anna Freud, later would create a name for herself in the field of Psychology.  It’s ironic to note that many of Freud’s ideas revolved around sex; however, he himself had grown not to like sex and at the age of forty- one vowed a life of celibacy (Schultz, 2004).  

In 1902, Freud was appointed a professor at Vienna University (Public Broadcasting Channel, 1997).  Then in 1906, Freud and seventeen other men met to form the Psychoanalytic Society.  Among its members were Alfred Adler and Carl Jung.  The society eventually dissolved due to political infighting.  In addition, Alfred Adler and Carl Jung defected from Freud and his beliefs (Simon, 1999).  For Jung, a Swiss from a protestant background, Freud’s strong atheist belief and strong distaste for religion and mysticism was too much for him to take.  Stanley Hall, in 1909, invited Freud to present his theories in a series of lectures at Clark University in Massachusetts.  This was Freud’s first international presentation of his theories. 

Freud, throughout his entire life, took a liking to smoking cigars which led to him being diagnosed with mouth and jaw cancer in 1923.  The last seventeen years of his life remained productive; however, Freud underwent over thirty surgeries for the treatment of his cancer (Public Broadcasting Channel, 1997).  In the 30’s when the Nazi’s started to gain power, Freud’s life in Vienna was threatened so his family moved to England were he would spent the rest of his life (Public Broadcasting Channel, 1997).  Finally on September 23, 1939, Sigmund Freud died of mouth and jaw cancer. 

Professional Accomplishments

            Freud throughout his life presented many books that are still respected today.  In 1895, Freud along with his mentor Joseph Breuer, published Studies on Hysteria this book for Freud was the start into looking into psychoanalysis (Schultz, 2004).  In 1900, Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams which initially sold poorly but had a major impact on his popularity (Simon, 1999).  In it Freud included his concept of dream analysis, theory of the mind and other information about himself and the history of Vienna were he spent much of his life.  In 1901, Freud published another book called Psychopathology of Everyday Life in which he describes his idea of the “Freudian slip” and about forgetfulness (Schultz, 2004).  In 1905, Freud published Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality which were based on lectures that he presented.  Finally, one other important book was The Ego and the Id which was published in 1923 in which he introduced his structural theory and concepts of the id, ego, and superego. 


Contributions to Psychology

            Sigmund Freud was the first to use the term psychoanalysis in 1896.  From that point his theories blossomed.  Freud did not invent the terms unconscious, conscious, or conscience; however, he was pivotal in making them popular.  Freud accomplished this through his theory of psychological reality:  id, ego, and superego.  Freud also drove a strong movement that sex drive is the most important motivating force.  He went on to identify that at times in our lives we find different areas on our bodies pleasurable (today these are called erogenous zones).  These ideas fused together to form Freud’s Psychosexual Stage Theory, which is still taught in textbooks today (Boeree, 1997).  This theory consisted of five different stages.  The first being the oral stage, in which newborns to eighteen month old infants find pleasure from the mouth, specifically, sucking.  The second stage, the anal stage, occurs eighteen months to three years of age; Freud believed that young children in this stage receive pleasure from holding in and letting go of their bowel movements.  Next is the phallic stage starting at age three and ending approximately around age seven.  In this stage children find pleasure from their genitals through ways of touching, Freud even suggested through masturbation.  The latent stage occurs in children ages seven to puberty, it’s suggested that children at this time suppress their pleasure in order to learn and grow.  Finally, the genital stage which begins at puberty involves finding pleasure in sexual intercourse.  Related to this theory was Freud’s Oedipus complex, this concept involves the idea that little boys love their mothers very deeply while they despise their fathers.  Freud proposed that if children do not leave these stage that later in life it will develop into abnormal behavior.

Another contribution to Psychology was Freud’s psychoanalytic techniques.  Freud’s psychoanalysis had several features that are still used in clinical practices today.  For example the use of a relaxing atmosphere were patients lay on a couch and the lights are dimmed, this allows for total relaxation to the point were the unconscious may begin to emerge itself.  Freud was also a strong believer in free association; he encouraged clients to say anything, whatever came to their mind even if it was foolish or repetitive.  In psychoanalysis, resistance was also a key theme.  Freud suggested that changing the subject or falling asleep were ways in which the unconscious mind would express that a certain idea was threatening. In addition to resistance, Freud was very interested in dream analysis and believed that all dreams had meaning or clues into the unconscious.  Freud also believed that a therapist could gain insight from transference or the projection of emotions onto the therapist as well as parapraxes which is termed “Freudian slips” which was a client’s slip of the tongue.  In the final stages of therapy, Freud felt that catharsis, or when a client had a sudden and sometimes dramatic outpouring of emotion, was when a client could finally gain insight into their true problems.  Overall, Freud’s goal in psychoanalysis was to make the unconscious conscious.  Today, Freud still remains one of the most well known Psychologists; however, it’s still highly debated whether or not his theories and psychoanalytic practices are credible. 



Boeree. G. C.  (1997).  Personality Theories:  Sigmund Freud.  Retrieved March 9, 2005. 

Public Broadcasting Channel.  (1997).  People and Discoveries:  Sigmund Freud.  Retrieved March 9, 2005 from 

Schultz, D. P. & Schultz, S. E.  (2004). A History of Modern Psychology.  8th Edition. Thomson Learning Inc.

Simon & Schuster.  (1999).  People of the Century.  New York, Time Inc. 



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