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FREUD, SIGMUND (1856-1939).

Founder of psychoanalysis. Freud was born in Austria to a scholarly, aloof father and a vivacious mother who was usually the center of attention in the household. He graduated from the University of Vienna Medical School, and one of his earliest original research projects in 1884 resulted in his discovery of the anesthetic properties of cocaine. Even as a general practitioner, Freud was interested in nervous disturbances. In collaboration with Joseph Breuer, he published Selected Papers on Hysteria in 1895. Before these studies of hypnosis as a means of studying the origins of hysteria were published, Freud replaced the use of hypnosis with his method of “free association” which became a basic technique of psychoanalysis. In 1900, with the publication of his book The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud ended his career as a general practitioner and devoted himself completely to the development and practice of psychoanalysis. His investigations into the unconscious strata of the mind helped to raise the curtain on the mysteries of the human personality and have laid the foundations for later investigations.

Freud was the first to demonstrate the importance of earliest childhood experiences and the crucial importance of the sexual life of the individual in the development of personality. The ideas presented in his books were hotly rejected and disputed. Freud’s work remained unrecognized in his native Austria until late in his life, the first acclaim coming to him from Germany and English-speaking countries. After the Nazi invasion of Austria in 1938 he settled in England.

Freud was constantly aware of being a Jew, though his attitude toward Jewishness was highly complicated, both negative and positive. He was a member of B’nai B’rith in Vienna. At a time when antisemitism was widespread in Vienna, a friend asked Freud whether he ought to baptize his newborn son. Freud advised against this action. “If you do not let your son grow up as a Jew,” he said, “you will deprive him of those sources of energy which cannot be replaced by anything else. He will have to struggle as a Jew, and you ought to develop in him all the energy he will need for that struggle. Do not deprive him of that advantage.”

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