Sadger, Isidor Isaak (1867-1942?)

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Austrian physician and psychoanalyst Isidor Isaak Sadger was born in Neuzandec, in Galicia, on December 29, 1867, and died, probably in a Nazi concentration camp, during the Second World War.

An important figure in early psychoanalysis, Sadger began his career as a specialist in nervous diseases who, in 1894, began publishing a series of articles on psychophysiology. One such article, which vaunted the discoveries of Paul Flechsig (who would become physician to Daniel Paul Schreber), was noted when Freud, after reading it, dreamed of the sentence: "It's written in a positive style" (1900a, p. 296).

A proponent of degeneracy theory, Sadger defined this hereditarian concept as an abnormal reaction of the central nervous system, and he investigated its incidence in the lives of significant writers. In his early writings, Sadger alluded to Freud in discussions of hysteria. He also appears to have attended some of Freud's university lectures in the late 1890s, about the time he began to practice the various neuropsychiatric therapies. In addition to employing the degeneracy concept, Sadger also evinced considerable interest in Freud's seduction theory.

In 1906, Sadger joined the group of analysts then gathering around Freud. His disregard for psychoanalytic conventions with patients earned him the disdain of colleagues; he took notes in shorthand during sessions and published them. However, he was regarded by Freud as a "good worker" for his varied research and particularly for his contributions concerning narcissism and homosexuality.

Some of Sadger's publications were devoted to the medico-legal defense of homosexuality, and he analyzed homosexuals with a view to curing "perversion." Such patients had to promiseindeed, certifythat they would undergo treatment even if the law did not punish their sexual behavior, and to admit that they possibly already had experienced some feeling for the opposite sex (Sadger, 1908). From these analyses emerged an etiology. The homosexual had a dominating mother and weak, sometimes absent father. Sadger regularly claimed that his homosexual patients recovered childhood memories of a precocious love for a woman, most often the mother. Sadger's biography of Heinrich von Kleist, published in 1910, took up this theme. While Freud accepted this discovery, and made use of it in his study of Leonardo da Vinci (Freud, 1910c), he rejected most of Sadger's ideas about narcissism (Sadger, 1908).

Sadger was the first Viennese analyst to employ the term "narcissism," bringing together Wilhelm Fliess's theory of bisexuality and the word "Narzismuss" which had been invented by Paul Näcke about 1899. He developed a theory of the ontogenesis of sexuality based on the concept of childhood seduction, in which sexuality manifested by the adult toward the child is taken up by the child and transformed into a closed circle of adoration. By contrast, Freud created a theory of narcissism in which the role of the object remains to a great extent concealed (Vichyn, 1984).

Sadger ended his work with, and his participation in, the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society about 1930. He may have written a biography of Freud but the manuscript has never been found. Sadger alone among Viennese analysts was either unable or unwilling to profit from his relationship with Freud in order to escape Austria after the German annexation in 1938. He died in the Theresienstadt camp in about 1942.

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See also: Applied psychoanalysis and the interaction of psychoanalysis; Heterosexuality; Homosexuality; Lehrinstitut der Wiener psychoanalytischen Vereinigung; "On Narcissism: An Introduction".


Freud, Sigmund. (1900a). The interpretation of dreams. Part I, SE, 4: 1-338. The interpretation of dreams. Part II, SE, 5: 339-625.

. (1910c). Leonardo da Vinci and a memory of his childhood. SE, 11: 57-137.

Nunberg, Hermann and Federn, Ernst. (1962-75). Minutes of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. New York: International Universities Press.

Sadger, Isidor. (1908). Psychiatrisch-Neurologisches in psychanalytischer Beleuchtung. (Psychiatry and neurology in the light of psychoanalysis). Zentralblatt für das Gesamtgebiet der Medizin und ihrer Hilfswissenschaften, 7-8.

. (1910). Ein fall von multipler perversion. (A case of multiple perversion). Jahrbuch für psychoanalytische und psychopathologische Forschungen,2.

. (1921). Die lehre von den geschlechtsverirrungen (Psychopathia sexualis), auf psychoanalytischer grundlage. Leipzig-Vienna: F. Deuticke.

Vichyn, Bertrand. (1984). Naissance des concepts: autoérotisme et narcissism. Psychanalyseà l'Université, 936.