Wagner-Jauregg, Julius (Julius Wagner Ritter von Jauregg) (1857-1940)

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Julius Wagner Ritter von Jauregg, an Austrian professor of psychiatry, was born on March 7, 1857, in the city of Wels, in Upper Austria, and died in Vienna on September 27, 1940. He was the son of a high ranking civil servant. While still a student and like Freud, he published the results of his original research in the laboratory of Salomon Stricker, professor of experimental pathology at the University of Vienna. After obtaining his doctorate in medicine in 1880, Wagner-Jauregg, for two years, remained an assistant in Stricker's laboratory, where he met Freud. The two men became friends and colleagues. When he failed to be admitted to a training program in internal medicine, Wagner-Jauregg decided on psychiatry. He submitted his thesis for his habilitation in neuropathology in 1885 and qualified as a privatdozent in psychiatry in 1888. In 1889 he was appointed professor extraordinarius at the University of Graz. Four years later, in 1893, he was appointed professor ordinarus, or full professor, at the University of Vienna, where he also became director of the First Psychiatric and Neurological Clinic and, from 1902, of the Second Psychiatric Clinic.

The course of Wagner-Jauregg's scientific work includes such empirical discoveries as the central role of iodine deficiency in the etiology of cretinism and the introduction of iodine therapy to treat goiter. Most significant was his use of malarial inoculations to treat general paresis, then a relatively common disorder in patients suffering from tertiary syphilis. This treatment represented his belief that inducing febrile illness could prove therapeutic in cases of psychosis, and in 1927 it won him the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

Wagner-Jauregg was accused of abusing solider-patients in his clinic by employing extremely painful electrical treatments to treat shell shock. The 1920 debate protocols from the military commission investigating charges of brutality suffered by soldiers at the hands of army doctors during the First World War reveal a fundamental disagreement between Freud and Wagner-Jauregg in their respective views on the nature of what came to be known as war neuroses. Freud was appointed as an expert in the case after other psychiatrists, former students of Wagner-Jauregg, recused themselves. In Wagner-Jauregg's view, as was commonly thought at the time, soldiers who seemed to be suffering from battle-related shell shock were actually malingerers. In contrast, Freud suggested the importance of the unconscious in such cases; he brought forward positive results of psychoanalytic treatment and proposed that war neuroses be treated more humanely and considered as purely psychological in nature. Freud emphasized that he believed Wagner-Jauregg could not be personally guilty of cruelty to patients.

Despite Wagner-Jauregg's negative attitude toward psychoanalysis, a number of analysts, including Helene Deutsch, Heinz Hartmann, Otto Pötzl, and Paul Schilder, all worked in his clinic as interns or assistants. Psychoanalytic training carried an obligation to work in a clinical setting in a university psychiatric department. Wagner-Jauregg's congratulations on the occasion of Freud's sixtieth birthday led to subsequent regular respectful exchanges between the two men.

Eva Laible

See also: Freud, Anna; Hartmann, Heinz; Isakower, Otto; "Notes Upon a Case of Obsessional Neurosis" (Rat Man); Nunberg, Hermann; Pötzl, Otto; Schilder, Paul Ferdinand; War neurosis.


Brown, Edward M. (2000). Why Wagner-Jauregg won the Nobel Prize. History of Psychiatry, 11, 371-382.

Eissler, Kurt R. (1986). Freud as an expert witness: The discussion of war neuroses between Freud and Wagner-Jauregg (Christine Trollope, Trans.). Madison, CT: International Universities Press. (Original work published 1979)

Jones, Ernest. (1953-1957). Sigmund Freud: Life and work (3 vols.). New York: Basic.

Lesky, Erna. (1976). The Vienna medical school of the 19th century (L. Williams and I. S. Levij, Trans.). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. (Original work published 1965)

Mühlleitner, Elke. (1992). Biographisches Lexikon der Psycho-analyse: Die Mitglieder der psychologischen Mittwoch-Gesellschaft und der Wiener psychoanalytischen Vereinigung, 1902-1938. Tübingen, Germany: Diskord.

Whitrow, Magda. (1993). Julius Wagner-Jauregg (1857-1940). London: Smith-Gordon.

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