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Sigmund Freud - Life, Work and Theories


Sigmund Freud
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Sigmund Freud with Cigar

The quintessential portrait of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.

Public Domain Image
Young Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud, 1907

Psychology's most famous figure is also one of the most influential and controversial thinkers of the twentieth century. Sigmund Freud's work and theories helped shape our views of childhood, personality, memory, sexuality and therapy. Other major thinkers have contributed work that grew out of Freud's legacy, while others developed new theories out of opposition to his ideas.

In 2001, Time Magazine referred to Freud as one of the most important thinkers of the last century. A 2006 Newsweek article called him "history's most debunked doctor." While his theories have been the subject of considerable controversy and debate, his impact on psychology, therapy, and culture is undeniable. As W.H. Auden wrote in his 1973 poem, In Memory of Sigmund Freud,

"if often he was wrong and, at times, absurd,
to us he is no more a person
now but a whole climate of opinion."

A Closer Look at Freud's Life

Our exploration of his legacy begins with a look at his life and time. Learn more about his life in this brief biography and timeline of his life, discover some of his most famous quotations or take an in-depth photo tour of his life from birth to death.

Freud's Major Theories

Freud's theories were enormously influential, but subject to considerable criticism both now and during his own life. However, his ideas have become interwoven into the fabric of our culture, with terms such as "Freudian slip," "repression" and "denial" appearing regularly in everyday language.

Freud and Psychoanalysis:

His ideas had such a strong impact on psychology that an entire school of thought emerged from his work. While it was eventually replaced by the rise of behaviorism, psychoanalysis had a lasting impact on both psychology and psychotherapy.

Freud's Patients

Major Works by Freud

Freud's writings detail many of his major theories and ideas, including his personal favorite, The Interpretation of Dreams. "[It] contains...the most valuable of all the discoveries it has been my good fortune to make. Insight such as this falls to one's lot but once in a lifetime," he explained. Some of his major books include:

  • The Interpretation of Dreams
  • The Psychopathology of Everyday Life
  • Totem and Taboo
  • Civilization and Its Discontents
  • The Future is an Illusion

Learn more about some of his major works in this list of books by Sigmund Freud.

Freud's Perspectives

Freud wrote and theorized about a broad range of subjects including sex, dreams, religion, women and culture. Learn more about some of Freud’s perspectives and how these views influenced his own theories.

Psychologists Influenced by Freud

In addition to his grand and far-reaching theories of human psychology, he also left his mark on a number of individuals who went on to become some of psychology's greatest thinkers. Some of the eminent psychologists who were influenced by Sigmund Freud include:

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