Sigmund Freud, Archaeologist of the Mind

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Sigmund Freud was born to a Jewish family on May 6, 1856, in the small Moravian town of Freiberg, Austria. At the age of four he moved with his family to Vienna, which at the time was a melting pot for immigrants. There he finished his elementary and high school studies at the top of his class. When he was 17 he entered the University of Vienna as a law student. During the course of his studies Freud became interested in the theories of Darwin, believing that they offered a better understanding of the world. This, and hearing Goethe's essay on nature read aloud by professor Bruhl, led him to become a medical student. After eight years of studies he received a doctorate of medicine. In 1882 he took a position at the Vienna General Hospital. During his work there he began studying the human central nervous system and then the human brain.

Realizing that there was not much money to be made in this field, he decided to study nervous diseases. There was little information on this subject in Vienna, and he chose to move to France to study under a famous neurologist named Jean-Martin Charcot. Freud was impressed with Charcot's method of using hypnosis to treat nervous disorders and his theory that hysteria, a nervous disorder, could occur in both male and female patients. This was when Freud decided in earnest to become a psychologist.

The work that Freud is most famous for stems from his experience with hysteria. Hysteria is a mental disorder whose symptoms include amnesia, paralysis, unexplained pains, nervous tics, loss of speech, and loss of feeling in the limbs, sleep walking, hallucinations, and convulsions. Hysteria was originally believed to be caused by a woman's womb wandering from its normal resting place. When Freud began...