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Who Was Sigmund Freud Pt 2

Who Was Sigmund Freud Pt 2

In 1873, Freud enrolled in biology and medicine at the University of Vienna. Specialist subjects became histology (the study of organic tissues) and neurophysiology (the study of the nervous system).  Freud hoped to pursue a career as a research scientist and for six years, from 1876, worked with the renowned Ernst Brücke (1819-1892) at the Physiological Institute. Brücke was dedicated to the idea that all life-forces could ultimately be explained in terms of physics and chemistry. Freud’s first research was conducted into the gonadic structure of eels, while 1878 saw the publication of his first paper, on the biology of the spinal cord in a primitive fish.  After much self-confessed negligence in pursuing his medical studies, Freud eventually passed his final examinations in 1881 with the grade of “excellent”.

Freud continued to work at Brücke’s laboratory, but the following year gave up his demonstrator’s post there, his chances of advancement as a young Jew being slim.  Financial constraints and his engagement to Martha Bernays (1861-1951) also played a part in this difficult decision.  He elected to pursue a medical career and embarked upon a three year training period at the Vienna General Hospital. This included five months working in the Psychiatric Clinic under Theodore Meynert (1833-1892), considered to be the foremost brain anatomist and neuropathologist at that time. Freud also studied the effects of cocaine, though a colleague, Carl Koller, apparently hijacked the prestigious claim to be the first to discover its anaesthetic properties.

In 1885, Freud was appointed as lecturer in neuropathology (diseases of the nervous system). Soon after, he was awarded a travelling fellowship, enabling him to spend an important nineteen week period with Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893), noted neurologist and director of the Salpêtrière asylum in Paris. Charcot had good results working with those suffering from hysteria (including symptoms such as paralysis, hallucinations and loss of speech, all with no clearly recognisable organic basis). Using hypnosis – albeit subscribing to a physical and mesmeric orientation – he was able to induce or modify such symptoms. Despite Charcot’s assertion that only hysterics could be hypnotised, Freud was impressed and vowed to try out similar techniques for himself at a later date. (He then returned to Vienna and married Martha, who gave birth to six children – three girls and three boys – over the next ten years.)

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