Alfred Adler. Source: frontispiece, The Neurotic Constitution.

Alfred Adler (1870-1937) met Sigmund Freud in 1902. Born in Vienna, Adler trained at the University of Vienna and at Vienna General Hospital. He worked initially in ophthalmology and then in private practice, and he appears not to have attended Freud's university lectures of 1895-1901 on the psychopathology of the neuroses.

The catalyst for Adler's relationship with Freud seems to have been Max Kahane (1866-1923), another physician from the same background. Although Kahane never developed beyond electrotherapy and other conventional treatments of the day, he brought Freud to the notice of the small group of individuals linked to Freud, a group that included, in additional to Adler, Rudolf Reitler (1865-1917), Wilhelm Stekel, and himself. In the fall of 1902, at Stekel's suggestion, Freud invited the group to his home at Berggasse 19 for an evening of scientific discussion. Their meeting, on a Wednesday, marked the origination of the pioneering "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 consisting of Jung, Bleuler, Frans Riklin (1857-1939), Alphonse Maeder (1882-1971) and others could not hide the essential divergence between Adler and Freud. Focusing on the conscious ego rather than the unconscious, Adler discarded the central Freudian understandings of repression, infantile sexuality, and the Oedipus complex. In their stead he posited forces of aggression, "male protest," social pressures, and the urge to dominate. His attention to dominance, which inevitably relegated sexuality to a secondary drive, attracted many (if not more) adherents than critics. By June 1911, Adler had resigned from the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society.

Adler served as a military doctor during the First World War. In 1921 he opened his first clinic for child guidance in Vienna. In 1927, he was a visiting professor at Columbia University in New York City. As the persecution of European Jews intensified in the 1930s, Adler emigrated to the United States where he founded the Journal for Individual Psychology and 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. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1932. Originally published in 1927.

_______. Über den nervösen Charakter. (The Neurotic Character.) 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.

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