Sigmund Freud - Biography

[ Sigmund Freud Quotes about his Scientific Interest in Cocaine ]

A side interest, though it was a deep one, had led me in 1884 to obtain from Merck some of what was then the little-known alkaloid cocaine and to study its physiological action. While I was in the middle of this work, an opportunity arose for making a journey to visit my fiancée, from whom I had been parted for two years. I hastily wound up my investigation of cocaine and contented myself in my monograph on the subject with prophesying that further uses for it would soon be found. I suggested, however, to my friend Königstein, the ophthalmologist, that he should investigate the question of how far the anaesthetizing properties of cocaine were applicable in diseases of the eye. When I returned from my holiday I found that not he, but another of my friends, Carl Koller (now in New York), whom I had also spoken to about cocaine, had made the decisive experiments upon animals' eyes and had demonstrated them at the Ophthalmological Congress at Heidelberg. Koller is therefore rightly regarded as the discoverer of local anaesthesia by cocaine, which has become so important in minor surgery; but I bore my fiancée no grudge for the interruption.(From An Autobiographical Study)


The alkaloid of the coca plant which was described by Niemann received little attention for medical purposes at the time. My work included botanical and historical notes on the coca plant based on statements in the literature; it confirmed by experiments on normal subjects the remarkable stimulating effects of cocaine and its action in preventing hunger, thirst and sleep; and it endeavoured to lay down indications for the therapeutic use of the drug.

Among these indications the reference to the possible employment of cocaine during withdrawal of morphine became of importance later. The expectation voiced at the end of the work that the property of cocaine for producing local anaesthesia would find further applications was soon afterwards fulfilled by K. Koller's experiments in anaesthetizing the cornea. (From Scientific Writings of Dr. Sigm. Freud, 1877-1897).


>> Read the entire article on Freud and the "cocaine episode"

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