Born in Austrian Galicia, Abraham Arden (A.A.) Brill (1874-1948) emigrated to the United States at the age of fifteen. There he financed his own studies, graduating from New York University in 1901 and from Columbia University, where he earned an MD in 1903. After working for four years at a Long Island state hospital, Brill traveled to Europe where he undertook further studies in psychopathology with the Swiss group of Eugen Bleuler (1857-1939) and Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961). Under their tutelage Brill became familiar with the theory of psycho-analysis (later psychoanalysis) and its use as in the treatment of psychopathology. He also met Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) in Vienna.
Brill and Freud struck up a correspondence, and their friendship developed quickly. Brill also began to correspond with another English-speaking visitor to the Swiss group in Zurich, Ernest Jones (1879-1958). Neither of these correspondences, continued for more than thirty years, has been published. On Freud's birthday in 1908, Brill and Jones were the favoured English-speaking visitors to the Freud apartment at Berggasse 19 in Vienna (Jones, 1955, "Emergence From Isolation"). Upon returning to the United States, both men established and promoted Freud’s name and work at English-speaking centres such as New York and Baltimore.
Brill was the first to translate Freud's major works into English, starting 1909 with Some Papers in Hysteria, followed in 1910 by Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex and The Interpretation of Dreams in 1913. Additional translations followed, as did criticism of Brill’s accuracy and rendition. When a difficulty arose, as with the translation of Freud’s more unfamiliar jokes and sayings, Brill occasionally substituted examples of his own. His energy, dedication and loyalty, however, were undoubted. In 1911 he founded the New York Psychoanalytic Society (now the New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute). In 1913 he assisted Jones in establishing the American Psychoanalytic Association. A clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University, Brill also maintained a private practice. He died in 1948 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
Alexander, F., Eisenstein, S., and Grotjahn, M. Psychoanalytic Pioneers. New York: Basic Books, 1966.
Brill, A. A. Fundamental Conceptions of Psychoanalysis. New York: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1921.
Jones, Ernest. The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud. Vol. II. London: Hogarth Press, 1955.
Roazen, Paul. Freud and His Followers. New York: Knopf, 1975.
Last modified 9 April 2021