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Biography of Sigmund Freud

Info: 2177 words (9 pages) Essay
Published: 8th Feb 2020 in History

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One of the most influential psychologists of the twentieth century would have been Mr. Sigmund Freud. (Wadswroth, (2014)).  He is known for being the father of Psychoanalysis, which is the study of the unconscious mind).  Psychoanalysis is used in helping treat patients with mental health disorders even today.  His name is also well known by people using the coined turn “The Freudian slip” In which someone says or states their true feelings through their unconscious thoughts. (Wadswroth, (2014)) Mr. Freud has come up with a lot of memorable quotes such as “Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength” or “Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”.  (GoalCast, 2016) Sigmund Freud has even been the author of several books.

The name Sigmund Freud most likely comes to everyone’s mind when thinking of a psychologist, because he has achieved many accomplishments throughout his life.

Per Merriam-Webster’s dictionary the definition of psychologist is “a person who specializes in the study of the mind and behavior or in the treatment of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders, or simply a specialist in psychology”

By taking a deeper look into Mr. Freud’s life, we can see exactly how he fits that definition.  Hopefully, we can understand him a bit better, observe his history and answer, why is Mr. Freud one to the most common household names that come to mind when discussing the topic of psychology?

I hope to take you on a journey of Mr. Freuds life to try and get the answer to that very question.  I hope to show you his life, how it all started and led us to know the name even today in 2019 as a common household name used when discussing psychology.

On May 6, 1856 in small town of Freiberg Austria, Jacob and Anna Freud gave birth to a baby boy by the name of Sigismund Freud.   Sigismund later in life, his early 20’s, would officially change his name to Sigmund.  The family would soon move to Leipzig, Germany in 1859 and shortly after ended up in Vienna, Austria in 1860. 

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The Freuds lived in a cramped home sharing a single room over a blacksmith’s shop but making do.  (Scott Gillam. Edina Minn(2012)) .  Sigmund was the youngest of 3 boys, his brothers Emmanuel and Philipp, where children from Jacob’s previous marriage, then there were his younger siblings, Julius, Anna, Pauline, Regina, Maria, Esther, Alexander.  While young Sigmund had a lot of siblings, he would often find himself playing with his niece and nephews, which were children from Emmanuel (his elder brother).  Regarding religion, Sigmund identified himself as an atheist, though he was raised into a non-practicing Jewish family.  (Scott Gillam. Edina Minn: (2012)). 

Sigmund’s father Jacob was a traveling wool merchant.  He would often have troubles finding work since industrial revolution was causing huge factories to be built everywhere.  Sigmund’s family was most certainly not affluent by any stretch.  However, due to the size of the family they were in need and fortunate enough to have a small staff to help, which including having a nanny to assist with the children.  Though, the nanny eventually got caught stealing the children’s toys and money from the Freud’s and ended up serving a prison sentence.  (Scott Gillam. Edina Minn: (2012)). 

Sigmund was originally home schooled until he was the age of nine.  Once, he reached the school system, however, he was almost always the top student in class. His parents sent him to a gymnasium, which is a school that prepares youth for becoming college students, typically they are found in Germany, Scandinavia, or Central Europe.  During his time at the gymnasium, Freud really became interested in literature, history and ancient cultures.  One of Sigmund’s favorite pastimes would be to go and to street poets, which would bring him closure to his new found passion.  On a particular occasion when Sigmund was around 16 years old, while listening to a poet, the poet predicted that Freud would be a government minister. This immediately made young Sigmund interested in studying law, with the goal of becoming part of the governing systems.  (Scott Gillam. Edina Minn: Abdo Publishing (2012)).  With Sigmund’s curious mind and desire to learn more and more, he stumbled upon the works of Charles Darwin.  He was very intrigued by Darwins theory of evolution, it was this, that became the turning point that made Sigmund really realize that studying science was more his ambition.  (Maisha Robinson: (2011)).  Sigismund also found his first love Gisela Fluss during this time of his life, which he would often write to one of his childhood friends Eduard Sibersteing about his love for Gisela.  Sigmund would eventually graduate from high school in 1873. 

Sigmund started his collegiate studies right after high at the University of Vienna when he was 17, where he would enlist as a medical student. (Michael Jacob, 2003).  In the first years of Freuds studies he focused on botany, microscopy, anatomy, chemistry and mineralogy.  During this time frame he also attended biology and physiology however not for academic credit.  His next few years he would turn his focus to more anatomy classes, physiology, physics, zoology and again attend classes for noncredit for philosophy and logic.  He would always take on extra classes due to his ambitions of learning.  (Scott Gillam. Edina Minn: (2012) In 1876 Freud would eventually travel with Carl Claus one of his professors and zoologist from the University.  The ventured to the Adriatic Sea where he studied the reproductive systems of Eels, as this was a mystery during the era as none of them seemed to have parts of the male anatomy.  Freud would end up learning about the scientific method on this adventure, as he developed the hypothesis that male eels would not develop their reproductive parts until later in life, which after testing over 400 different eel subjects his research was still inconclusive. (Scott Gillam. Edina Minn: (2012).

It took Freud 8 years to obtain his medical degree, which was roughly 3 years above the average student, however Freud enjoyed taking the extra time in school as he was intrigued by learning,  He would take constantly take extra courses just for the benefit of obtaining more knowledge and more knowledge.  While attending the University Freud also found himself working in the Dr. Ernst Brücke’s laboratory, who was one of the most famous scientists during this time frame introducing physical and chemical methods into medical research.  (Scott Gillam. Edina Minn: (2012). Freud was drafted during his college years in 1879 for a year to help with wounded soldiers.  In March of 1881 he would finally graduate from the University of Vienna with a medical degree.

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Freud would end up continuing work for Brücke’s and would also take various teaching positions to help bring money in.  In 1882 Sigmund took a practicing physicians position at Vienna General Hospital.  It was here where he became exposed to such topics as dermatology, surgery, general medicine, diseases impacting the nervous systems, but also, what we know him for today, psychiatry.  Sigmund would also work part time at the Children’s Institute for Diseases.  Finally, in 1886 Dr. Freud would open his own practice studying and becoming one of the greatest in the field of nervous conditions.   Freud did eventually end up going back to his alma mater in 1902, the University of Vienna, where he would now be a professor himself.

In 1882 Sigmund finally found the love of his life Martha Bernays, a very liberal Jewish girl.  Freud would become engage to Martha within 2 months of their meeting.  (Michael Jacobs, 2003).  This would cause trouble for Martha and Sigmund as Sigmund was very open about being an atheist.  Martha’s family was also not please in her choice of Sigmund because they believed his family was not educated enough.  This would lead to a 5-year engagement of the two, as Sigmund would need to save up enough money for their wedding.  Martha and Sigmund wed on September 13th and 14th in 1186, they had a civil and religious ceremony. 

They would go on to have 6 children (Anna, Ernst, Jean, Mathilde, Oliver, and Sophie) in their first eight years of their marriage.   Sigmund seemingly was a good father, playing with his children as often as possible taking advantage of being close to home and enjoying weekends and holidays, playing games, cards, collecting mushrooms (Sigmund’s favorite thing to do) or just enjoying nature on long walks. (Michael Jacobs, 2003) All three of his sons would later get drafted for World War I, however all of them luckily made it home safely.  Freud’s youngest daughter Anna became a psychoanalyst like her father, studying children’s mental problems in 1933. 

Sigmund went on to publish many books and essays.  In 1895 Freud and Breuer published “Studies on Hysteria” which was not very popular as it touched on repressing sexual urges from childhood.  In 1901 he would publish “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life” were the Freudian slip was introduced, regarding how when someone says something in error, it reveals the speaker’s true feelings.  In 1902 “The Origins of Psychoanalysis”, 1920 “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” 1923 “The Ego and the Id” which was about the struggle between two opposing drives.  1927 “The Future of an Illusion” which highlights conflicting motives and logical inconsistencies.  1930 He released “Civilization and its Discontents “considering the incompatibility of civilization and individual happiness, and the tension between the claims of society and individual.  In 1920 Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays, had an English translation of his book “A general Introduction to Psychoanalysis” released into the United States where it would be accepted more widely.  So much so that in 1909 Sigmund was invited to the Clark University in Worcester Massachusetts to be a guest speaker at a conference.  (Wadswroth, (2014)) For doing this task, Freud was awarded an honorary degree by the University. In 1930 Freud received the Goethe Prize which is a very esteemed award, typically for authors and those who have shown creativity in science, this award is also accompanied by prize money.

In 1923 it was discovered that Sigmund had a small patch on the top of his mouth.  Freud disregarded if for quite some time, as he was certain he knew what it was.  The cancer would later be confirmed as cancer of the jaw and was most likely caused by his continued passion of cigar smoking.  (Michael Jacobs, 2003) In 1939 after battling the cancer for 16 years, his daughter Anna become his care giver, where he was eventually put on a morphine drip for the pain, and on September 23, 1939 the great Sigmund Freud would pass away.

As shown throughout this paper, we have learned that Sigmund was a man eager and thirsty for knowledge even from a young age.  He was a very intelligent man, marking high above his classmates and taking more classes just to become more knowledgeable.  We found that Sigmund worked very hard throughout his life to become the successful doctor that we have all known to become as a familiar household name.  Sigmund loved, he lived, and he achieved.  Freud wrote teachings, still taught today, he won awards and he inspired many to dig deeper in psychoanalysis, he even may have made you hate, eh, sorry (Freudian slip there), love psychology a bit more.


  • Wadswroth, Cengage Learning (2014). Psychology: Themes and Variations, Briefer Version (Ninth Edition).  20 Davis Drive, Belmont, California 94002-3098
  • GoalCast home page (2016). info@goalcast.com https://www.goalcast.com/2017/12/01/20-sigmund-freud-quotes/
  • Scott Gillam. Edina Minn: Abdo Publishing (2012).  Sigmund Freud : Famous Neurologist. 8000 West 78th Street, Edina, Minnesota 55439
  • Michael Jacobs, SAGE Publications (2003). Sigmund Freud (Second Edition) 2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks, California 91320
  • Maisha Robinson: BrainMass Inc. (2011) Everything you need to know about Sigmund Freud


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