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Emil Kraepelin

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One Hundred Years Of Psychiatry


By Emil Kraepelin
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Emil Kraepelin

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Emil Kraepelin (February 15, 1856–October 7, 1926) was a German psychiatrist. He is seen as being the founder of modern scientific psychiatry, psychopharmacology and psychiatric genetics according to the eminent psychologist H. J. Eysenck in his Encyclopedia of Psychology. Kraepelin said that psychiatric diseases are mainly caused by biological and genetic disorders. His psychiatric theories dominated the field of psychiatry at the beginning of the twentieth century, and have again, in their essence, since its end. Kraepelin opposed the approach of Sigmund Freud who regarded and treated psychiatric disorders as caused by psychological factors.

Photograph of Emil Kraepelin

In 1886, after only eight years of training, he was appointed to a professorship at the University of Tartu (then Dorpat) in what is today Estonia and became the director of an eighty-bed University Clinic. There he was able to study and record many clinical histories in detail and "was led to consider the importance of the course of the illness with regard to the classification of mental disorders." Ten years later he announced that he had found a new way of looking at mental illness. He referred to the traditional view as "symptomatic" and to his view as "clinical". This turned out to be his paradigm-setting synthesis of the hundreds of mental disorders classified by the 19th century, grouping diseases together based on classification of syndromes — common patterns of symptoms — rather than by simple similarity of major symptoms in the manner of his predecessors. In fact, it was precisely because of the demonstrated inadequacy of such methods that Kraepelin developed his new diagnostic system.

Kraepelin is specifically credited with the classification of what was previously considered to be a unitary concept of psychosis, into two distinct forms:



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