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7 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know about Sigmund Freud

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | Permalink

Posted by Mark Steiner

Freud is the father of modern psychology. His pioneering work in psychoanalysis and the study of unconscious desires shaped the field for decades to come. A character as complex as his work, Freud has been studied and analyzed by dozens of writers. In this list, inspired by some of the best books on the subject, we take a look at the lesser-known parts of Freud's history and persona.

1. He was born as the first of eight children.

Sigmund Freud was born in a rented room above a locksmith’s home. His father was a wool merchant, and the family had fallen on tough times. Things would eventually turn around for Freud when he left to study medicine.


Freud's birthplace and childhood home

2.He spoke eight languages

Sig was no dummy. He spoke well in German, Italian, French, Hebrew, Latin, Spanish, English, and Greek. This allowed him to read all sorts of great works, from Darwin’s Origin of Species to the writings of Friederich Nietzsche

3. He was a big fan of Shakespeare

Freud loved literature. He spent much of his free time reading Shakespeare’s works, and it has been suggested that Freud’s exposure to Shakespeare’s characters may have shaped his study of psychoanalysis.

4.He loved tobacco.

This iconic picture of Freud features him holding a cigar, but he actually started his habit with cigarettes. Freud was a big fan of tobacco: he insisted that it helped him work better and took the place of other fixations and habits. His love for cigs ended poorly: he developed fatal mouth cancer and would ask to be euthanized in 1939.

5. ...and Cocaine

Freud was a doctor, and that meant chiming in on new medical developments. As cocaine began to appear in Europe, Freud became an occasional user and strong proponent. He advocated its use as an anesthetic and painkiller, and would write Über Coca, a paper highlighting its virtues.

6. He was serious about joking

One of Freud’s lesser known ideas was that jokes represent unconscious desires. He developed a theory on why people make jokes, and would publish Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious in 1905.

7. He might have been a philanderer…

Freud married Martha Bernays in 1886. In 1896, Martha’s sister Minna would move into the Freud home after her fiancé’s death. Many began to talk of an affair between Freud and his sister-in-law. A travel log signed by Freud while traveling with Minna serves as tenuous evidence of an affair.


Freud's wife Martha Bernays

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