Joseph Breuer (1842-1925) can to some extent be
regarded as the "grandfather" of psychoanalysis. Indeed, the history wants it that Breuer's account to Freud of a case which the former had looked after at the beginning of the years 1880 - the notorious
Anna O. case - to be the source of the theoretical development leading Freud to psychoanalysis.
Born in Vienna, from a family involved in Judaic religious
instruction, Breuer became quickly devoted to his medical studies. In 1867 he was awarded the Privat-Dozent title, but gave up a university career to dedicate
himself to his private customers. Simultaneously with his clinical practice, Breuer carried out research tasks at the Institute of Physiology, directed by Ernst von
Brüke. It is in this context that, in 1880, he met Freud, his fourteen years junior.
The relationship between Freud and Breuer was rather characteristic of the links
that Freud would establish during those years and even later, with their mixture of dependence, admiration and competition. Breuer played a paternal role for
Freud, even financially supporting his younger colleague in the years when he established his family life. The account of Anna O. case, treated by Breuer, was
to be the source of work leading to publications such as the famous Studies on Hysteria, in 1895.
With the publication of this book, marking the theoretical disagreements between
the two men, the relationship between Breuer and Freud was already broken. Several years later, after the Breuer's death, Freud was deeply moved to learn,
from a close relationship of theirs, that Breuer had very sympathetically followed the evolution of his life and career.
Copyright René DesGroseillers