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Josef Breuer
Full name Josef Breuer
Born 15 January 1842(1842-01-15)
Died 20 June 1925 (aged 83)
School Psychoanalysis

Josef Breuer (January 15, 1842 – June 20, 1925) was an Austrian physician whose works lay the foundation of psychoanalysis.

Born in Vienna, his father, Leopold Breuer, taught religion in Vienna's Jewish community. Breuer's mother died when he was quite young, and he was raised by his maternal grandmother and educated by his father until the age of eight. He graduated from the Akademisches Gymnasium of Vienna in 1858 and then studied at the university for one year, before enrolling in the medical school of the University of Vienna. He passed his medical exams in 1867 and went to work as assistant to the internist Johann Oppolzer at the university.


Anna O.

A close friend and collaborator with Sigmund Freud, Breuer is perhaps best known for his work with Anna O. (the pseudonym of Bertha Pappenheim), a woman suffering with symptoms of paralysis, anaesthesias, and "disturbances of vision and speech". (Zangwill)

Breuer observed that her symptoms were reduced or disappeared after she described them to him. Anna O. humorously called this procedure chimney sweeping. She also coined the more serious appellation for this form of therapy, the talking cure, which is widely regarded as the basis of Freudian psychoanalysis. (Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time, pp. 65–66)

Freud and Breuer documented their discussions of Anna O., along with other case studies, in their 1895 book, Studies on Hysteria. These discussion of Breuer's treatment of Anna O. became "a formative basis of Freudian theory and psychoanalytic practice; especially the importance of fantasies ..., hysteria ..., and the concept and method of catharsis which were Breuer's major contributions." (Zangwill)

Other work

Breuer, working under Ewald Hering at the military medical school in Vienna, was the first to demonstrate the role of the vagus nerve in the reflex nature of respiration. This was a departure from previous physiological understanding, and changed the way scientists viewed the relationship of the lungs to the nervous system. The mechanism is now known as the Hering-Breuer reflex.[1]

Independent of each other[2] in 1873, Breuer and the physicist and mathematician Ernst Mach discovered how the the sense of balance (i.e., the perception of the head’s imbalance) functions: that it is managed by information the brain receives from the movement of a fluid in the semicircular canals of the inner ear. That the sense of balance depends on the three semicircular canals was discovered in 1870 by the physiologist Friedrich Goltz, but Goltz did not discover how the balance-sensing apparatus functions.

In 1894, Breuer was elected a Corresponding Member of the Vienna Academy of Science. (Robert S. Steele, Freud and Jung p. 50)


Breuer married Mathilde Altmann in 1868, and they had five children. His daughter Dora later committed suicide rather than be deported by the Nazis. Likewise, one of his granddaughters died at their hands.

In fiction

A series of meetings between Josef Breuer and Friedrich Nietzsche was fictionally created in the book When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin D. Yalom.

The 1968 TV film Prescription: Murder, which introduced the character of Columbo, begins with the murderer (Gene Barry), an arrogant psychiatrist, stumping party guests in a game of Botticelli by choosing Josef Breuer.

In 1992, the relationship between Josef Breuer and Anna O. was fictionalized in the play "The Mystery of Anna O". Spanning 3 time periods, the play questions whether Anna O was actually Bertha Pappenheim. The play was written by Jerome Coopersmith.


  • Zwei Fälle von Hydrophobie. In: Wiener medizinische Wochenschrift 18 (1868). Sp. 178 f., 210-213.
  • Das Verhalten der Eigenwärme in Krankheiten. In: Wiener medizinische Wochenschrift 18 (1868). Sp. 982-985, 998-1002.
  • Die Selbststeuerung der Athmung durch den Nervus vagus. In: Sitzungsberichte der Akademie der Wissenschaften Wien, math.-naturw. Kl. 58/2 (1868), S. 909-937.
  • Bemerkungen zu Senator's „Beiträge zur Lehre von der Eigenwärme und dem Fieber“. In: Arch. path. Anat., Berlin 46 (1969), S. 391 f.
  • Über Bogengänge des Labyrinths. In: Allg. Wien. med. Ztg. 18 (1873), S. 598, 606.
  • Über die Function der Bogengänge des Ohrlabyrinthes. In: Med. Jb., Wien 1874. S. 72-124.
  • Zur Lehre vom statischen Sinne (Gleichgewichtsorgan). Vorläufige Mittheilung. In: Anz. Ges. Ärzte, Wien 1873. Nr. 9 (17. Dezember 1873), S. 31-33.
  • Beiträge zur Lehre vom statischen Sinne (Gleichgewichtsorgan, Vestibularapparat des Ohrlabyrinths). Zweite Mittheilung. In: Med. Jb., Wien 1875. S. 87-156.
  • Neue Versuche an den Ohrbogengängen. In: Arch. Physiol. 44 (1889), S. 135-152.
  • Über die Funktion der Otolithen-Apparate. In: Arch. Physiol. 48 (1891), S. 195-306.
  • Über Brommastitis. In: Wien. med. Presse 35 (1894), Sp. 1028.
  • Über Bogengänge und Raumsinn. In: Arch. Physiol. 68 (1897), S. 596-648.
  • Die Krisis des Darwinismus und die Teleologie. Vortrag, gehalten am 2. Mai 1902. In: Vorträge und Besprechungen. (1902), S. 43-64. Nachdruck der Ausgabe 1902: Edition diskord, Tübingen 1986.
  • Über Galvanotropismus bei Fischen. In: Zbl. Physiol., Wien 16 (1902), S. 481-483.
  • Studien über den Vestibularapparat. In: Sitzungsberichte der Akademie der Wissenschaften Wien, math.-naturw. Kl. 112/3(1903), S. 315-394.
  • Über den Galvanotropismus (Galvanotaxis) bei Fischen. In: Sitzungsberichte der Akademie der Wissenschaften Wien, math.-naturw. Kl. 114/3 (1905), S. 27-56.
  • Über das Gehörorgan der Vögel. In: Sitzungsberichte der Akademie der Wissenschaften Wien, math.-naturw. Kl. 116/3 (1907), S. 249-292.
  • Bemerkungen zu Dr. H. Abels Abhandlung „über Nachempfindungen im Gebiete des kinästhetischen und statischen Sinnes“. In: Zschr. Psychol. Physiol. Sinnesorg. 45 (1907), 1. Abt., S. 78-84.
  • Über Ewald's Versuch mit dem pneumatischen Hammer (Bogengangsapparat). In: Zschr. Sinnesphysiol. 42 (1908), S. 373-378.
  • Curriculum vitae [1923]. In: Dr. Josef Breuer 1842-1925. Wien o. J. [1927]. S. 9-24.
  • Ein telepathisches Dokument. In: Umschau 28 (1924). S. 215 f.
  • Josef Breuer / Rudolf Chrobak: Zur Lehre vom Wundfieber. Experimentelle Studie. In: Med. Jb., Wien 22/4 (1867). S. 3-12.
  • Josef Breuer / Sigmund Freud: Über den psychischen Mechanismus hysterischer Phänomene. Vorläufige Mittheilung. In: Neurol. Zbl. 12 (1893), S. 4-10, 43-47; zugleich in: Wien. med. Blätter 16 (1893), S. 33-35, 49-51.
  • Sigmund Freud / Josef Breuer: Studien über Hysterie. Franz Deuticke, Leipzig + Wien 1895. Neudruck: 6. Auflage. Fischer, Frankfurt a. M. 1991. ISBN 3596104467
  • Josef Breuer / Alois Kreidl: Über die scheinbare Drehung des Gesichtsfeldes während der Einwirkung einer Centrifugalkraft. In: Arch. Physiol. 70 (1898), S. 494-510.
  • Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach / Josef Breuer: Ein Briefwechsel. 1889-1916. Bergland-Verlag, Wien 1969


  1. ^ Breuer, Josef (1842-1925) | Encyclopedia of Psychology | Find Articles at BNET at
  2. ^ Hawkins, J.E. and Schacht, J. "The Emergence of Vestibular Science" (Part 8 of "Sketches of Otohistory") in "Audiology and Neurotology," April 2005.

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