Sigmund Freud was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1856. His father experiences of parents in the upbringing of children a small time merchant, and his father’s second wife was Freud’s mother. Freud had two half-brothers some 20 years older than himself.
His family moved to Vienna when he was four years old, and though he often claimed he hated the city, he lived there until it was occupied by Germany in 1938. Freud’s family background was Jewish, though his father was a freethinker and Freud himself an avowed atheist. Freud was a good student, and very ambitious. Medicine and law were the professions then open to Jewish men, and in 1873 he entered the University of Vienna medical school.
He hoped to go into neurophysiological research, but pure research was hard to manage in those days unless you were independently wealthy. During his training he befriended Josef Breuer, another physician and physiologist. They often discussed medical cases together and one of Breuer’s would have a lasting effect on Freud. She had temporary paralysis, could not speak her native German but could speak French and English, couldn’t drink water even when thirsty, and so on.
In 1886, Freud returned to Vienna, opened a private practice specializing in nervous and brain disorders, and married. He tried hypnotism with his hysteric and neurotic patients, but gradually discarded the practice. In 1900, Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams, and introduced the wider public to the notion of the unconscious mind. In 1902, Freud was appointed professor at the University of Vienna and began to gather a devoted following. By 1906, there were 17 disciples, and soon more, who formed a Psychoanalytic Society. Other such groups emerged in other cities.