Richard von Krafft-Ebing

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Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing[1] (August 14, 1840 – December 22, 1902) was an Austro-German sexologist and psychiatrist. He wrote Psychopathia Sexualis (1886), a notable series of case studies of the varieties of human sexual behaviour. The book remains well known for his coinage of the terms sadism (from Marquis de Sade whose fictional writings often include brutal sexual practices) and masochism (from writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, whose partly autobiographical novel Venus in Furs tells of the protagonist's desire to be whipped and enslaved by a beautiful woman). He was also the first to use the terms homosexual and heterosexual.

Baron von Krafft-Ebing was born in Mannheim, Baden, Germany. He was educated in Heidelberg and studied medicine at the University of Heidelberg.

After graduating in medicine and completing his specialization in psychiatry, Krafft-Ebing worked in several asylums. He soon grew disappointed with their workings and decided to pursue a more academic vocation. He subsequently became a professor at Strasbourg, Graz, and Vienna, and a forensic expert at the Austro-Hungarian capital. He popularized psychiatry, giving public lectures on the subject and theatrical demonstrations of the power of hypnotism.


Psychopathia Sexualis

Krafft-Ebing wrote and published several articles on psychiatry, but his book Psychopathia Sexualis became his best-known work. Krafft-Ebing intended it as a forensic reference for doctors and judges and wrote in a high academic tone, noting in the introduction that he had "deliberately chosen a scientific term for the name of the book to discourage lay readers". He also wrote "sections of the book in Latin for the same purpose". Despite this, the book was highly popular with lay readers and was printed and translated many times.

It was one of the first books to study such sexual topics as the importance of clitoral orgasm and female sexual pleasure, consideration of the mental states of sexual offenders in judging their actions, and homosexuality. For decades it was an authority on psychosexual diversity and arguably one of the most influential books on human sexuality prior to Freud's works. Krafft-Ebing was praised for opening up a new area of much-needed psychological study and condemned for immorality and justifying perversion.

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