Today marks 157th anniversary of the birth of Sigmund Freud. Or at least, today marks the day most frequently identified as the day Freud was born. The day on which Freud himself believed he was born. The traditional date differs from the one given in town records where he was born, which list March 6, 1856 as the correct birth date.
In an article published on the Psychology Today website, psychologist Jesse Bering described a bit of the history behind the discrepancy:
"The story goes something like this: in 1968, a researcher was surprised to discover that records from Freiburg, Moravia, the town where Freud was born, indicated Freud's birth date as being March 6. It remains unclear as to whether this discrepancy between the date celebrated as his birthday and that which is noted in the town's register is a simple clerical error or, as at least one scholar suggests, belies a more scandalous affair. Freudian historiographer Marie Balmary has argued that, despite what even Freud himself thought to be true, March 6 is in fact Freud's real birthday. Balmary alleges that Freud's parents adopted the phoney May 6 date to hide the fact that Freud's mother, Amalie, was already pregnant when she married his father Jakob."
He's been described as one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century, but he is also one of the most controversial. His life and legacy continue to fascinate, but his theories are often dismissed as outdated and unscientific. While he can be a polarizing figure in psychology history, there is no question that Freud left an indelible mark on psychology as well as other disciplines.
On the anniversary of his birth, take a moment to learn more about his life and influence.
- Freud: A Photobiography - Learn more about his life from his birth until his death in 1939.
- Quotes by Sigmund Freud - Some of the most famous quotations from Freud's writings.
- Fascinating Facts About Sigmund Freud - Ten things you might not have known about history's most famous psychiatrist.
Photo by Max Halberstadt
Amazing the way this story morphs around. Psychologist Jesse Bering did not at all sum up the history: Ernest Jones, in a footnote to the very first sentence of his biography of Freud, published in 1953, referred to the rumor of the March 6 birthdate. The question has since been the subject of much discussion. No one has found a written record verifying the March 6 date; nothing was discovered in 1968. Still, I believe March 6, not May 6, is the correct date. See my discussion at