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History of Neurology
November 2003

Freud's Comparative Study of Hysterical and Organic ParalysesHow Charcot's Assignment Turned Out

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Neurology, Atrium Medical Center, Heerleen, the Netherlands.



Arch Neurol. 2003;60(11):1646-1650. doi:10.1001/archneur.60.11.1646

From October 1885 until February 1886, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) visited Paris to work with Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893) at the Salpêtrière. His original plan was to continue his neuropathologic studies. During the first months of his stay in Paris, he was disappointed and considered returning to Vienna. His feelings changed after personally meeting Charcot, to whom he proposed translating the third volume of Leçons sur les Maladies du Système Nerveux into German. Interestingly, 10 of the lectures from this book were on traumatic hysteria, the reason why Freud added "particularly on hysteria" to the original French title.1 Freud was much impressed by Charcot, and his original purpose, the study of neuropathology, changed. As he wrote to Carl Koller (1857-1944) in 1886, "I found Charcot there, a teacher such as I had always imagined."2(p30) In January and February 1886, he was a frequent guest at Charcot's "hôtel" at Boulevard St Germain 217, joining the other students, including Joseph Babinski, Pierre Marie, and Georges Gilles de la Tourette. At the time, he admired Charcot and later on he even named his first born Jean-Martin.24

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