Sigmund Freud Biography

Sigmund Freud was the father of ‘psychoanalysis’. Read on to know more on his childhood, life and timeline in this biography.

Sigmund Freud

Quick Facts

Also known as: Sigismund Schlomo Freud (German)
Gender: Male
Birthday: 06 May 1856
Died: 23 September 1939
Nationality: Austrian
Sun Sign: Taurus
Spouse/Ex-: Martha Bernays
Mother: Amalia Freud
Siblings: Alexander Freud
Children: Anna Freud, Ernst L. Freud, Martin Freud
Education: University of Vienna
Awards: Goethe Prize, Foreign Member of the Royal Society

The father of Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud made a significant contribution in the world of medical science in the department of psychology. An early thinker of the early twentieth century, Freud’s contribution in the domain of neurology and psychotherapy changed the world’s perception of the medical condition. Known for his inventive mind and his will power to define the helms of science, Sigmund Freud was a living legend in his own right. He articulated the science behind unconsciousness, repression and infantile sexuality. He went on to discover the ‘tripartite’ version of the structure of the mind and designed various mechanisms and frames that would ultimately help in studying the balance and the psychological development of the human mind. Nearly all of his works exist and are recognizable today. He also had massive influences over the fields of anthropology and semiotics. Apart from being a Neurologist and a Psychoanalyst, he was a fluid essayist and explained dreams and the discovery of transference. Although there have been countless critiques that disowned and commented on Freud’s work for being highly sexist and unrealistic, there were many positive comments about his discoveries and some even compared his works to those of Aquinas and Plato.

Childhood And Early Life

Sigmund Freud was born in the town of Freiburg, Moravia on 6th May 1856 to Jacob Freud and Amalie, who were Jewish by descent. He was the first of the eight children born and was born with a good omen according to Jewish customs that made him a favorite with his parents. Despite being a wool merchant, the Freud family was fairly impoverished. From a very young age, Junior Freud was always displeased with the fact that he was born a Jew and did not pay too much of respect to his religious practices. As the eldest child in the family, Freud’s parents decided to give the boy schooling and a good education. However, the family ran into losses and had to eventually move to Vienna for the children’s education.


Sigmund Freud, as a nine year old, enrolled at a famous school known in the year 1865, and came out as a budding pupil for his outstanding efforts. He then later went on to graduate from Matura in the year 1873 with accolades and recognition from the institute. Freud took a particular liking towards language and literature and was already a multi-linguist at his age. He could proficiently converse, read and write in a variety of subjects such as Italian, Spanish, German, French and Hebrew to name a few.
He was greatly moved and influenced by the works of Shakespeare and this is how he was said to have inculcated an interest for psychology from a tender age. The underlying concepts and theories of Shakespearean plays got him to ponder over various aspects that he would later identify and relate to psychology. At the age of 17, he enrolled at the University of Vienna and enrolled at the medical school where he studied under prominent names such as Karl Claus, Ernst Brucke and Franz Brentano. Zoology, physiology ad philosophy caught on to his nerves like a bug, and it became an inevitable part of his life. He enjoyed science and acquired a taste for Zoology after dissecting a couple of Eels at his research station situated in Trieste. He successfully graduated from the University of Vienna in the year 1881, and went on to begin his career.


His career commenced with the “Theodor Meynert” psychiatric clinic at Vienne Hospital right after he graduated with an MD. After a brief stint at the general hospital, he decided to start his own venture that studied and practices on individuals and cases that focused primarily on ‘mental and nervous disorders’ in the year. During the beginning of his career, Freud studied alongside fellow neurologist, Jean-Martin Charcot in Paris, on the subject of hypnosis and psychopathology in the year 1885. Right after he set up his clinic, Freud began to practice the art of ‘hypnosis’ on his patients. He was greatly influenced by the methods used by his former colleague and friend Joseph Breuer in the process of hypnotism.
He successfully administered cure through the form of hypnosis with one of his celebrated patients known as ‘Anna O’. History states that Freud was able to cure her of her mental illness while setting her in a state of trance and getting her to talk about her illness. The illness and the symptoms would eventually reduce while reliving past memories and if not complete cure, then symptomatic treatment was achieved. Following this success, Freud often used practiced Hypnotism on his patients and got his patients to talk freely on anything that crossed their mind during the hypnotic process. This sort of practice would later be known as ‘the free association’ method.
By the year 1896, Freud condemned the study of hypnosis and discovered a more complex system of studying the underlying, psychotic condition and the complex structure of brain material during a patient’s dream. He coined a new word called ‘psychoanalysis’ and went on to establish new clinical practices and theories in this year. Freud defied all norms of science and went of study repressed sexual thoughts that occurred in children and it lead to the discovery of a new theory based on infantile sexuality known as ‘Freud’s seduction theory’. He believed that the repressed fantasies and sexual thoughts at a young age were responsible in the aggravation of another mental condition called neuroses. At a time when Freud was discovering these theories, he went into a state of great depression, and even faced a personal loss of his father’s death the subsequent year. This led him to believe in superstitious omens and believing that he would die at the age of 51, Freud went of explore his own childhood and some of his deepest, darkest memories in the form of dreams. He began a sort of ‘self-analysis’ of his own system and remembered seeing his mother nude on one of their journeys on the train, that caused him to develop sexual feelings and incest thoughts towards his mother. After this he went on to publish a detailed account called the ‘Interpretation of Dreams’ in the winter of 1899. Most of his theories post ‘self-analysis began to take a more sexist form and he had faced countless oppression from pupils of other departments of sciences such as Karen Horney and Melanie Klien. As a part time lecturer at the University of Vienna, he would spend his time imparting knowledge and lectures to small groups who would ardently listen and agree to his theories. A small group of Viennese physicians slowly began to admire Freud’s work and were instrumental in Freud’s promotion to professor at the University. His second publication was also produced around this time known as the ‘Jokes and their Relation to the Unconsciousness” in the year 1905.
With this group, he founded the “Wednesday Psychological Society’ that marked the entry of the subject of ‘Psychoanalysis’ officially into the world. Max Kahana, Wilhelm Stekel, Rudolf Reitler and Alfred Adler were some of the members of this prestigious group. By the year 1906, the committee had grown to a staggering 16 member group including prominent faces such as Otto Rank. The grown catapulted to success and in the year 1908, after much success over psychoanalytical deliberations, the group was finally accorded the title of the “Vienna Pyschoanalytical Society”. From the early periods of 1911, women were being accorded seats in the respected guild.
Many of Freud’s students went on to translate Freudian works in different parts of the world that attracted widespread media interest and also caused a breakthrough in the field of Psychoanalysis in the United States of American. Freud was invited by the Harvard University and eminent personalities such as James Jackson Putnam where they had prolonged discussions and seminars on the subject. Putnam then went ahead with another co-founder to begin the American Psychoanalytic Society in the year 1909. After the period of World War 1, the original group was officially renamed as the Society for Individual Psychology. One of the members of the society known as Jung, begin to devise his own concepts and theories of Psychology, a little different from Freudian concepts, and he went on to launch it as analytical psychology. The break down between Jung and Freud was apparently anticipated, and after Jung promptly left the group, the committee was reorganized and was formed into the Committee off Loyalists in the year 1912 who safeguarded Freud’s works on psychoanalysis.

Later Years

Towards the year 1927, Freud published a dissertation on ‘The History of the Psychoanalytic Movement’ that was first published in German that stated the birth of the guild, right from its inception to the separations caused by Jung. At the beginning of 1930, Freud was awarded with the coveted Goethe Prize for his significant contributions to German medicine, literature and psychology. After the invasion of the Nazi’s in Germany, Hitler and his ‘Reich’ who were purely anti-Freudian, destroyed all his works, collections and books. Although the Nazi threat began to grow, he decided to stay on in the country before Ernest Jones, the President of the Society decided to persuade him to Exile to England. Freud finally realized that it was time to leave the country and decided to leave along with Jones to Britain. Although Freud decided to leave, he was stalled by the Nazi Reich. After much persuasion and deliberation, Freud was finally allowed to leave on the Orient Express on the 6th June. Towards the end of his life, Freud wrote his final books called ‘Moses and Monotheism’ and an unfinished version of the “Outline of Psychoanalysis”, which was published after his death.

Personal Life

Sigmund Freud married Martha Bernays, the granddaughter of a Rabbi in the year 1886. Although he was accused of having an extra marital affair with his sister-in-law, Minna Bernays, he went on to have six children with his wife in the subsequent years. Freud was said to have a long battle with cancer which he detected as Leukoplakia, a benign growth in the mouth in the year 1923. Although he discovered it as benign, the tumor was actually malignant and worsened during his career. He had to undergo surgery, during which he had a narrow escape from death. He wasn’t told that he had cancer, but he eventually succumbed to it towards his final years. He was also in a fix with the Nazi’s during his late career, and he had faced tremendous personal losses in the form of his father’s death, and the death of his four beloved sisters at various Nazi Concentration camps during the ‘Anschluss’.

Death And Legacy

Towards the end of his life, Freud began to suffer from severe pain that came as a result of his severe cancer. He persuaded his doctor to help him die and the doctor refused stating that he would have to consult the family members first. After the family decided that it would be pointless to watch Freud suffer, they put an end to his misery with substantial doses of morphine. Thus, Sigmund Freud perished on 23rd September 1939, and he was cremated three days later. Although Freud’s theories went on influence a series of medical domains, many criticized his work for being highly inaccurate and steeped in sexist opinions. Although his theories were some of the most complex to crack at his time and age, many of followers agreed that they were highly testable and theories on psychoanalysis could never be proved wrong.
Some of his famous works related to paranoia, unconsciousness, repressed sexuality, verbal psychotherapy, the libido, the pleasure principle, displacement of ego principles and his theories of psychological sexual development went on to work a storm in all parts of the world and are also studied under modern psychological aspects even today. Although gravely criticized, Sigmund Freud postulated some of the greatest theories known in the history of mankind, and have still not ceased to exist.


1856: Sigmund Freud was born in Moravia to Jewish parents.
1860: Family moves to Vienna after failure in Freud’s father’s business.
1873: Began studying medicine at the University of Vienna
1881: Received the MD degree in Medicine.
1885: Worked with Charcot on the subject of Hysteria and hypnosis.
1886: Married Martha Bernays and started his private clinic.
1893: Formulated the seduction theory.
1895: Published ‘Studies on Hysteria’.
1896: Freud stopped used hypnosis and coined the term ‘psychoanalysis’ for his new practices.
1900: Published the Interpretation of Dreams.
1908: The first conference of Psychoanalytical Congress took place in Salzburg.
1923: He was diagnosed with Jaw cancer.
1933: Worked and discussed theories with Albert Einstein.
1939: Died on September 23 after being administered heavy doses of Morphine.

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Sigmund Freud Biography

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Last Updated

June 10, 2019

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