Alfred Adler. Source: frontispiece, The Neurotic Constitution.

Alfred Adler, 1870-1937, first met Sigmund Freud in 1902. A Viennese-born physician, Adler had trained at the illustrious University of Vienna and Vienna General Hospital, during the relatively dormant period leading up to the Preliminary Communication of Breuer & Freud in 1893. He entered first practice in ophthalmology and then private practice, and appears not to have attended Freud's university lectures on the psychopathology of the neuroses in the period c.1895-1901.

As with Wilhelm Stekel, the catalyst around 1901 appears to have been another physician from the same background - Max Kahane (1866-1923) - who himself never developed beyond electrotherapy and similar conventional treatments of the day, but who brought Freud to the notice of the small group of Rudolf Reitler (1865-1917), Stekel, Adler and Kahane himself. To these four men - at Stekel's suggestion - Freud then addressed postcards in the Autumn of 1902, inviting them to attend his home at Berggasse 19 in the Vienna IX district, for an evening of scientific discussion. Wednesday was chosen, apparently because of some psychological significance for Freud (almost certainly the day of his "dream of Irma's injection" in July, 1895). Thus was born Freud's pioneering Vienna "Psychological Wednesday Society," which met weekly in Freud's waiting-room, around a large oblong table (Jones, 1953).

At the First International Psa. Congress, at Salzburg in 1908, Adler presented a paper on "Sadism in Life and in Neurosis," and was already developing his own ideas on individuals, education and the correction of any perceived "inferiority complex." Controversy with the Swiss group of Jung, Bleuler, Frans Riklin (1857-1939), Alphonse Maeder(1882-1971) et al. could not hide the essential divergence between Adler and Freud - Adler preferring the conscious ego to the "Unconscious," and discarding "repression," infantile sexuality and the Oedipus complex, which he replaced with "aggression," "male protest," social forces and the urge to dominate. By June 1911 Adler resigned from the re-shaped Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. [As a child he had been competitive with an earlier Sigmund, his own older brother.] Adler's attention to "dominance" in the individual inevitably relegated "sexuality" to a secondary drive, thereby attracting many (if not more) adherents than critics. By 1921 he was opening his first Clinic for child-guidance in Vienna.

Adler's trajectory is best followed through his publications, which will either attract or repel the curious learner. His School of Individual Psychology and Individual Therapy could be said to have been a reaction against his formative Habsburg-Victorian times, when the prevailing European political model was Autocratic Government, with individuals occupying lesser positions and identities, and readily consumed by grand-scale plans of mobilisation, training and regimentation, war and slaughter, 1914-1918. Adler served as a military doctor, 1914-18; travelled widely from 1920; was a visiting professor at Columbia University from 1927; from early 1930s held a professorship at Long Island College of Medicine. He died at Aberdeen, Scotland during a lecture tour.


Adler, A. Der Aggressionstrieb im Leben und der Neurose (On the Aggressive Drive in Life and Neurosis). Fortsch. Med. 26 (1908): 577-584.

_______. The Practice and Theory of Individual Psychology . Transl. by P. Radin. 1927. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1932.

_______. Über den nervösen Charakter (The Neurotic Character). 1908. Wiesbaden: J. F. Bergmann, 1912.

Ansbacher, H. L. and R. R. (eds.). The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler. Collected Papers.. New York: Harper, 1964.

Bottome, Phyllis. Alfred Adler: A Biography. New York: Putnam's Sons, 1939.

The Journal of Individual Psychology. University of Texas Press.

Orgler, H. Alfred Adler: The Man and His Work: Triumph over the inferiority complex. New York: Liveright, 1963.

[Illustration source] Adler, Alfred. The Neurotic Constitution. Trans. Bernard Glueck and John E. Lind. New York: Moffat, Yard and Co., 1916. Internet Archive. New York: Moffat, Yard and Co., 1916. Contributed by Yale University, Cushing/Whitney Medical Library. Web. 24 February 2021.

Created 24 February 2021