Swoboda, Hermann (1873-1963)

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SWOBODA, HERMANN (1873-1963)

Hermann Swoboda, professor of law and philosophy, was born on November 23, 1873, in Vienna, where he died on June 18, 1963. The son of a pharmacist, he attended the University of Vienna, where he also spent his career. After receiving a doctorate in law in 1897 and in philosophy in 1901, Swoboda was appointed privatdocent in psychology four years later. He was named professor extraordinarius (full professor without chair) in 1925. By his wife, Marie Felgel von Farmholz, he had three children. Passionate about music, Swoboda became intrigued with studies of the periodic rhythms in human life. He seems to have experienced financial difficulties during the course of his career. His last publication dates to 1940.

Swoboda's encounter with psychoanalysis was short but explosive. In correspondence with Otto Weininger from 1899 to 1902, he exchanged numerous ideas that helped Weininger to develop his monograph Sex and character (1906), published in German in 1903. Several years after Weininger's suicide in 1903, Swoboda wrote a book about his friend, Otto Weiningers Tod (The death of Otto Weininger), published in 1911. Meanwhile, in 1900 Swoboda began an analysis with Freud that lasted only a few months. During one of their sessions, Swoboda remarked on contrasting fantasies of "overcoming" and "succumbing," as he later explained, "now incubus, now succubus toward the events." Freud explained the contrast by reference to the "bisexual disposition of each human" (Swoboda 1906, p. 7; quoted in Schröter, p. 151). Swoboda immediately conveyed this information to Weininger, who incorporated it into Sex and Character.

This chain of events would become one of the arguments by which, in 1906, Wilhelm Fliess accused Freud of having transmitted ideas to those he characterized as plagiarists of his work: Weininger (on bisexuality) and Swoboda (on periodicity). In addition, in August 1901 Swoboda advised Weininger to visit Freud to seek his help in finding a publisher for his manuscript. In 1904 Swoboda published Die Perioden des menschlichen Organismus (Periodicity in the life of the human organism) and sent a copy to Fliess, who at the time received it with pleasure. (Extracts can be found in Porge, 1994.) Only after reading Sex and Character and learning from Freud that Swoboda was his pupil did Fliess initiate accusations of plagiarism. Swoboda reacted by suing for defamation and lost; he also published the pamphlet Die gemeinnützige Forschung und der eigennützige Forscher (Research of interest to the public and the researcher's own self-interest; 1906). (Again, extracts can be found in Porge, 1994.)

In Die Perioden Swoboda presents his psychological experiments on the spontaneous recurrence of memory representations after 18-hour, 23-hour, and 23-day periods. He included an adulatory chapter on Fliess's work but did not mention Freud's Interpretation of Dreams (1900a). These works stand against Wundt's associative psychology. In 1917, in Siebenjahr (Septenary periods), Swoboda suggested that there are seven-year rhythms. Freud discusses Swoboda's theses in the revised editions of The Interpretation of Dreams.

Erik Porge

See also: Fliess, Wilhelm; Sex and Character ; Weininger, Otto.


Le Rider, Jacques. (1982). L 'affaire Otto Weininger. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Porge, Erik. (1994). Vol d 'idées? Paris: Denoël.

Rodlauer, Hannelore.(1990). Otto Weiningers Eros und Psyche. Vienna:Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.

Schröter, Michael. (2003). Fliess versus Weininger, Swoboda, and Freud: the plagiarism conflict of 1906 assessed in the light of the documents. Psychoanalysis and History, 5, 2, 147-173.

Swoboda, Hermann. (1904). Die perioden des menschlichen organismus in ihrer psychologischen und biologischen Bedeutung. Leipzig: Deuticke.

. (1906). Die gemeinnützige Forschung und der eigennützige Forscher: Antworten auf die von Wilhelm Fließ erhobenen Beschuldigungen. Vienna: Braümiller.

. (1911). Otto Weiningers Tod. Vienna: F. Deuticke.

. (1917). Das Siebenjahr. Leipzig: Orion.

Weininger, Otto. (1906). Sex and character. London: W. Heinemann. (Original work published 1903)