[Vienna: Karl Gerold’s Sohn, 1877].
First edition, extremely rare separately-paginated offprint (journal pagination 15-27), of Freud’s first published paper. In 1876, three years after entering the University of Vienna as a medical student, Freud joined the laboratory of the eminent physiologist Ernst Brücke where he began studying the histology of nerve tissue, a subject that would occupy him for the next ten years. During this time Freud made several significant contributions to our knowledge of the structure of nerve cells and took some first steps toward the theory of the neuron. Freud’s first assignment at Brücke’s laboratory was to clarify the structure of the so-called Reissner cells, a large type of nerve cell found in the spinal cord of the lamprey (Petromyzon), a primitive species of fish. “Within a few weeks, Freud reported to Brücke that he could not only trace peripheral sensory nerves to their origins from Reissner’s cells, but he could also see fibers in the dorsal (sensory) roots that arose from these same cells and passed centrally into the spinal cord. This led to his first scientific papers, in which he concluded that Reissner’s cells ‘are nothing else than spinal ganglion cells which, in those low vertebrates, where the migration of the embryonic neural tube to the periphery is not yet completed, remain within the spinal cord’” (Shepherd, Foundations of the Neuron Doctrine: 25th Anniversary Edition, pp. 66-67). The offered paper is Freud’s first paper on Petromyzon. It “appeared in print three months before the publication of his first original piece of student research, on the gonadic structure of the male eel” (Norman). No copies of this offprint listed on ABPC/RBH (there was a copy of this offprint in the Haskell F. Norman library, but it did not appear in the 1998 Christie’s sale of the library). OCLC lists five copies in US.
“When Freud undertook this research project, the spinal chord of the lower vertebrates was known to be characterized by the arrangement of bipolar ganglion cells. Higher vertebrates were believed to possess exclusively unipolar ganglia. Freud was able to show that the spinal chord of Petromyzon possesses both types of cells – itself an important contribution to evolutionary theory. As for the Reissner cells (located in the posterior nerve root), Freud discovered that they too were a form of spinal ganglion cell but had remained within the spinal chord. Finally, he observed certain Reissner-like cellular elements on the surface of the spinal chord, between the posterior nerve root and the peripheral ganglia. Deducing that these cells were the evolutionary link between the central and the peripheral ganglia, he proclaimed that “it is not surprising if, in an animal that in many respects represents a permanent embryo, there are cells that have remained behind and that indicate the path the spinal ganglion cells once travelled.” To use Freud’s later psychoanalytic terminology, such laggard cells were “fixated” in the midst of their evolutionary course.
“Years later Freud found this evolutionary-anatomical parallel to his psychoanalytic findings of important didactic use in his Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis. After describing his youthful discoveries about Petromyzon, with its laggard ganglion cells, Freud went on to say:
“I will therefore declare without more ado that I regard it as possible in the case of every particular sexual trend that some portions of it have stayed behind at earlier stages of its development, even though other portions may have reached their final goal … Let me further make it clear that we propose to describe the lagging behind of a part trend at an earlier stage as a fixation – a fixation, that is, of the instinct” (Standard Edition XVI, 340)” (Sulloway, Freud, Biologist of the Mind: Beyond the Psychoanalytic Legend, pp. 267-8).
Freud worked at Brücke’s institute, apart from a year’s military service, from 1876 until 1882 (neurological research delayed his final medical examination until March 1881), when Brücke advised him to abandon the laboratory for financial reasons. Following his engagement in June 1882 to Martha Bernays, the grand-daughter of a chief Rabbi in Hamburg, he felt compelled to set up his own medical practice to enable him to support a family, so he registered in July as an aspirant at the Allgemeine Krankenhaus in Vienna in order to gain the necessary practical experience. Over a three-year period, Freud worked in various departments of the hospital. His research work in cerebral anatomy led to the publication of a seminal paper on the palliative effects of cocaine in 1884. His time spent in Theodor Meynert’s psychiatric clinic and as a locum in a local asylum led to an increased interest in clinical work. His substantial body of published research led to his appointment as a docent in neuropathology in 1885, a non-salaried post but one which entitled him to give lectures at the University of Vienna. In 1886, Freud resigned his hospital post and entered private practice specializing in “nervous disorders”.
Grinstein 37; Jones I, pp. 51-2; Standard edition 1877a; Norman F1.
8vo (245 x 157 mm), pp. 13 with one folding plate. Original printed wrappers, unopened (stamp of Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften on upper wrapper). Extremities slightly worn.