Sigmund Freud (born Sigismund Schlomo Freud; 6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939) was an Austrian neurologist who became known as the founding father of psychoanalysis.
Freud qualified as a Doctor of Medicine at the University of Vienna in 1881, and then carried out research into cerebral palsy, aphasia and microscopic neuroanatomy at the Vienna General Hospital. This led in turn to the award of a University lectureship in neuropathology, a post he resigned to go into private practice. On the basis of his clinical practice Freud went on to develop theories about the unconscious mind and the mechanism of repression, and created psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient (or "analysand") and a psychoanalyst. Though psychoanalysis has declined as a therapeutic practice, it has helped inspire the development of many other forms of psychotherapy, some diverging from Freud's original ideas and approach.
Freud postulated the existence of libido (an energy with which mental process and structures are invested), developed therapeutic techniques such as the use of free association (in which patients report their thoughts without reservation and in whichever order they spontaneously occur), discovered transference (the process by which patients displace on to their analysts feelings based on their experience of earlier figures in their lives) and established its central role in the analytic process, and proposed that dreams help to preserve sleep by representing sensory stimulii as fulfilled wishes that would otherwise awake the dreamer. He was also a prolific essayist, drawing on psychoanalysis to contribute to the interpretation and critique of culture.
Psychoanalysis remains influential within psychiatry and across the humanities. As such it continues to generate extensive debate, notably over its scientific status and as to whether it advances or is detrimental to the feminist cause. Regardless of the scientific content of his theories, Freud's work has suffused intellectual thought and popular culture to the extent that in 1939 W. H. Auden wrote, in a poem dedicated to him: "to us he is no more a person / now but a whole climate of opinion / under whom we conduct our different lives".