Emil Kraepelin

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Emil Kraepelin

Emil Wilhelm Georg Magnus Kraepelin (born February 15, 1856 in Neustrelitz , † October 7, 1926 in Munich ) was a German psychiatrist , on the significant developments in scientific psychiatry go back. He was a professor at the University of Dorpat , the University of Heidelberg and the University of Munich .


Kraepelin provided the basis for today's system of classifying mental disorders . He introduced experimental psychological methods into psychiatry and is considered the founder of modern, empirically oriented psychopathology , with which psychological thinking became common in psychiatry. The development of modern psychopharmacology can also be traced back to Kraepelin. To call him the founder, however, is neither justified by Kraepelin's research nor his publications. Because this attribution is based primarily on the narrow work On the Influence of Simple Psychological Processes by Some Medicines from 1892.

Family and career

Kraepelin's grave in the Heidelberg Bergfriedhof in Department V

Emil Kraepelin was born as the youngest of three children of the music teacher and actor Karl Kraepelin . He passed his Abitur in 1874 at the Carolinum grammar school in Neustrelitz. Since 1871 he was engaged to Ina Schwabe, who was seven years older than him, and married her in 1884. With her he had eight children, four of whom died in infancy. In 1885 his first daughter was born. Perhaps he had the closest relationship with his brother Karl, nine years his senior . Inspired by him, after completing his military service in Leipzig, he studied medicine at the University of Leipzig and the University of Würzburg from 1874 .

Here he was able to work with Franz von Rinecker at the psychiatric university clinic in 1875 , who hired him as an assistant at the end of 1877 after another brief stay in Leipzig, where he met Wilhelm Wundt . In 1878 Kraepelin completed his studies with a doctorate, switched for four years to Bernhard von Gudden at the district insane asylum in Munich and went to Paul Flechsig in Leipzig in 1882 , where he aroused Flechsig's displeasure and "to a high degree" his " Dissatisfaction "aroused because Kraepelin did not perform his medical duties in the clinic and was finally terminated (letter of termination:" ... treated ... the service for the clinic actually as a ... minor matter "). With the support of his mentor Wilhelm Wundt, he nevertheless succeeded in obtaining his habilitation with a few just enough publications - without writing his own habilitation thesis .

After he returned to Bernhard von Gudden in Munich in autumn 1883, but was unable to enforce his research methods there, Kraepelin gave up his academic career - also influenced by the planned marriage with Ina Schwabe - and worked from August 1884 to April 1885 as a Senior physician at the Prussian provincial insane asylum in Leubus , which was housed in the former monastery .

On July 1, 1886, he was appointed to his first professorship at the University of Dorpat , but left it with the onset of russification efforts in 1889. In 1890, he began laboratory tests on hygiene at work , as he called it, in Heidelberg , and researched work-psychological relationships with fatigue and practice at work using a work curve . In 1891 he took over the management of the Grand Ducal Badische Universitäts-Irrenklinik in Heidelberg for twelve years , where he introduced decisive innovations. Dissatisfied with the limited possibilities for expanding the clinic, he accepted a call to Munich in 1903 .

On December 21, 1903, Kraepelin and his brother Karl went on a journey from Heidelberg that took him via Genoa to Southeast Asia. Kraepelin carried out studies on the local population in Buitenzorg on Java . This published Kraepelin u. a. under the title Psychiatrisches aus Java , 1904. This in turn made him the founder of comparative or transcultural psychiatry .

In Munich, even before the First World War , he was thinking about founding a research center for psychiatry. With the help of generous funding from James Loeb , he succeeded in founding the German Research Institute for Psychiatry ( Kaiser Wilhelm Institute ) in Munich in 1917 , from which the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry (German Research Institute for Psychiatry) emerged today . The research institute had the following departments: clinical department ( Johannes Lange ), brain pathology department ( Brodmann , Nissl , Spielmeyer ), serological department (Plaut, Jahnel) and the genealogical department ( Rüdin , a supporter of the theory of degeneration). During the First World War Kraepelin took part in the founding of the Bavarian section of the German Fatherland Party . In 1920 he received an honorary doctorate from the Philosophical Faculty of the University of Königsberg .

Kraepelin expressed his personal attitude to the theory of degeneration z. B. 1908 in the work on the degeneration question or 1918 in the work Sexual aberrations and population increase. The psychiatrist Kurt Kolle described in one of his works ( Große Nervenärzte , 1956/1970) this Kraepelinian attitude as "emphatically völkisch".

Kraepelin was acquainted with the Brazilian psychiatrist Juliano Moreira (1872-1933) and was in correspondence with him.

Emil Kraepelin was buried in the Heidelberg Bergfriedhof . His final resting place is in Department V.


The term and concept of dementia praecox (premature dementia) go back to Kraepelin . He took this name from the French psychiatrist Bénédict Augustin Morel , who used it to describe the illness of a young person who - previously completely inconspicuous - increasingly withdrew and fell into a state of dementia. However, Kraepelin expanded the term to include the diseases hebephrenia and catatonia described by Kahlbaum and Hecker , to which he saw parallels. So the name no longer referred to a single sub-form, but to an entire group of diseases. As a common characteristic of all clinical pictures within this group, Kraepelin observed "a peculiar destruction of the inner connection of the psychic personality with predominant damage to the emotional life and the will".

However, this approach proved too limited and was replaced by the broader term schizophrenia by Eugen Bleuler . What is significant, however, is Kraepelin's approach, which today seems self-evident: instead of classifying mental disorders solely according to externally identifiable symptom similarities, as was customary before, he also took into account changes in symptoms over time and thus the course of a clinical picture in his research . This gave him a further criterion for differentiating, assessing and assessing symptoms and symptom complexes ( syndromes ) in the case of psychological abnormalities, which was also able to narrow down not only temporal but also causal relationships.

In the 5th edition of his psychiatric textbook from 1896, he dealt extensively with the delusional ideas. In 1899, in the 6th edition of his psychiatric textbook , he developed the dichotomy of psychoses , which is still valid today , by contrasting dementia praecox with manic-depressive insanity . The criterion for this dichotomy was the different course: In contrast to dementia praecox (today the group of schizophrenia), the symptoms of manic-depressive insanity (today affective disorder ) recede again. Psychiatric science now knows that this rule does not always apply. For a long time, however, the general tendency was considered undisputed. However, based on the findings of more recent genetic research, this dichotomy can no longer be scientifically maintained. A 2007 publication of the World Psychiatric Association gives a good overview of the controversy surrounding Kraepelin .

In the treatment of mental disorders, Kraepelin relied on the therapies known at the time. He recommended opium , hyoscine and bromine in particular .

The Golden Kraepelin Medal is named after him, as is the Kraepelinweg in the Hamburg district of Barmbek-Süd and in the Berlin district of Spandau as well as the Kraepelinstrasse in the Munich district of Schwabing .

Critical appraisal

On the basis of his research, Kraepelin was able to postulate that psychotic illnesses - called endogenous psychoses as late as 1991 until they were classified according to ICD-10 - arise naturally. Disturbed brain functions were given particular attention and Kraepelin promoted brain research in every way. He paid attention to sociocultural aspects by establishing transcultural psychiatry in 1904. On the other hand, he seems to be in the further developments of psychopathological thinking beyond his clinical-descriptive approach through the methodically precise phenomenological recording of the mental states that patients actually experience , associated with the name Jaspers , to have been hardly interested (although Franz Nissl , Kraepelin's long-term collaborator, valued Jaspers' textbook more than Kraepelin's). This applies even more to research into the psychodynamics of mental events, which researchers such as Freud , Adler , Jung and others were trying to find at the same time .

He did not believe in Freud's interpretation of dreams . However, in 1906 Kraepelin published a longer monograph on language disorders in his dreams (286 role models in total), which he analyzed in his own way. He continued recording his dreams after 1906 until his death in 1926. This second dream corpus - also with language disorders (391 models) - is still in the historical archive of the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry .

Critics like Dorothea Buck hold Kraepelin responsible for the inhumane methods in German psychiatry in the 20th century. The writer Ernst Toller describes his encounter with Kraepelin during his stay in the psychiatric clinic in his autobiography "Eine Jugend in Deutschland".

Fonts (selection)

Individual fonts

  • Compendium of Psychiatry. For use by students and doctors. Abel, Leipzig 1883 ( digitized version );
  • Psychiatry. A textbook for students and doctors. (older editions of the later textbook under different titles)
(1st edition) Compendium of Psychiatry for use by students and doctors. Abel Verlag, Leipzig 1883
2nd, completely revised edition. Psychiatry. A short textbook for students and doctors. Abel Verlag, Leipzig 1887 digitized
3rd, often revised edition. Psychiatry. A short textbook for students and doctors. Leipzig, Abel, 1889 (Abel's medical textbooks) digitized
4th, completely redesigned. Edition. Leipzig: Abel, 1893
5th, completely revised edition 1896. JA Barth , Leipzig ( digitized )
6th, completely revised edition 1899, 2 volumes (digital copies: I , II )
7th, often revised edition. Psychiatry. A textbook for students and doctors. 2 vols. 1903 and 1904
8th, completely revised edition Vol. I-IV. A textbook for students and doctors. JA Barth , Leipzig 1909–1915 (digital copies: Vols. I , II , III , IV )
(with Johannes Lange ) 9th, completely revised edition. Psychiatry. Vol. I, General Psychiatry, by Johannes Lange. Vol. II, Clinical Psychiatry, Part One, by Emil Kraepelin. Barth Verlag, Leipzig 1927.
  • Introduction to the psychiatric clinic.
(1st edition) Leipzig 1901 digitized
3., completely redesigned. Ed., Leipzig 1916 digitized
4th, completely redesigned. Ed., 3 vol., Leipzig, Johann Ambrosius Barth, 1921 (not digitized)
  • On the psychology of the comic. In: Philosophical Studies. Volume 2, 1885, pp. 128-160, 327-361 ( digitized version ).
  • About the influence of certain drugs on simple psychological processes. Fischer, Jena 1892 ( digitized version and full text in the German text archive ).
  • To the hygiene of work. Fischer, Jena 1896
  • About speech disorders in dreams. Engelmann, Leipzig 1906 ( archive.org ).
  • A century of psychiatry. A contribution to the history of human morality. Berlin 1918.
Work edition

Edition Emil Kraepelin. Edited by Wolfgang Burgmair, Eric J. Engstrom and Matthias Weber. Belleville, Munich; published so far:

Volume I: Personal, personal testimonials. 2000, ISBN 3-933510-90-2 .
Volume II: Criminological and Forensic Writings. Works and letters. 2001, ISBN 3-933510-91-0 .
Volume III: Letters I, 1868–1886. 2002, ISBN 3-933510-92-9 .
Volume IV: Kraepelin in Dorpat, 1886-1891. 2003, ISBN 3-933510-93-7 .
Volume V: Kraepelin in Heidelberg, 1891–1903. 2005, ISBN 3-933510-94-5 .
Volume VI: Kraepelin in Munich I, 1903–1914. 2006, ISBN 3-933510-95-3 .
Volume VII: Kraepelin in Munich II, 1914–1921. 2009, ISBN 978-3-933510-96-9 .
Volume VIII: Kraepelin in Munich III, 1921–1926. 2013, ISBN 978-3-943157-22-2 .


  • Huub Engels: Emil Kraepelin's dream language: explain and understand. In: Dietrich von Engelhardt, Horst-Jürgen Gerigk (ed.): Karl Jaspers at the intersection of contemporary history, psychopathology, literature and film. Mattes, Heidelberg 2009, ISBN 978-3-86809-018-5 , pp. 331-343.
  • Birk Engmann, Holger Steinberg: Emil Kraepelin's Dorpater time - Did this stay leave any traces in Russian and Soviet psychiatry? Fortschr Neurol Psychiatr 2017; 85 (11): 675-682. DOI: 10.1055 / s-0043-106049 .
  • Eric J. Engstrom: Emil Kraepelin: Life and work of the psychiatrist in the field of tension between positivistic science and irrationality . Master's thesis, Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich, 1990.
  • Eric J. Engstrom and Kenneth Kendler: Emil Kraepelin: Icon and Reality . American Journal of Psychiatry 172.12 (2015), pp. 1190-1196.
  • Eric J. Engstrom, Matthias M. Weber (eds.): Making Kraepelin History: A Great Instauration? Special Issue of History of Psychiatry 18.3 (2007).
  • Eric J. Engstrom, Wolfgang Burgmair, Matthias M. Weber: Emil Kraepelin's Self-Assessment: Clinical Autography in Historical Context. History of Psychiatry 13 (2002), pp. 89-119.
  • Ernst Klee: The dictionary of persons on the Third Reich. Who was what before and after 1945. Frankfurt am Main 2005, 333.
  • Helmut Siefert:  Kraepelin, Emil. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 12, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1980, ISBN 3-428-00193-1 , p. 639 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Holger Steinberg: Kraepelin in Leipzig. An encounter between psychiatry and psychology. Psychiatrie-Verlag, Bonn 2001 (Das Narrenschiff edition), ISBN 978-3-88414-300-1 .
  • Holger Steinberg (ed.): The correspondence between Wilhelm Wundt and Emil Kraepelin. Testimony to decades of friendship. Hans Huber, Bern 2002, ISBN 3-456-83805-0 .
  • Holger Steinberg, Matthias Claus Angermeyer: Emil Kraepelin's years at Dorpat as professor of psychiatry in nineteenth-century Russia. History of Psychiatry 2001; 12: pp. 297-327.
  • Holger Steinberg: The Silesian Provincial Insane Asylum Leubus in the 19th century with special consideration of the work of Emil Kraepelin. Würzburg medical history reports 21, 2002, pp. 533–553; here pp. 538-547.
  • Holger Steinberg: Emil Kraepelin in Leipzig: How a dismissal can be followed by a habilitation - a source study. In: Holger Steinberg (Hrsg.): Leipziger Psychiatriegeschichtliche Vorlesungen. [Contributions to the history of Leipzig universities and science B 7]. Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig 2005, pp. 75-102, ISBN 3-374-02326-6 .
  • Matthias M Weber: Kraepelin, Emil. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin and New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 785 f.
  • Matthias M. Weber, Wolfgang Burgmair, Eric J. Engstrom: Between clinical symptoms and psychological public hygiene: Emil Kraepelin 1856–1926. In: Deutsches Ärzteblatt. October 13, 2006, 103.41, 2006: A2685-2690.
  • Benedikt Weyerer: The patron James Loeb . In: excluded-disenfranchised-deportiert Ed. Ilse Macek, Munich 2008, 457.
  • Dagmar Drüll: Heidelberger Gelehrtenlexikon 1803-1932. (Ed.): Rectorate of the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität-Heidelberg. Springer Berlin / Heidelberg / Tokyo 2012, ISBN 978-3-642-70761-2 .


  • Bibliography in: Emil Kraepelin: Memories. Edited by Hanns Hippius, Gerd Peters and Detlev Ploog with the collaboration of Paul Hoff and Alma Kreuter. Springer Verlag, Berlin 1983.
  • Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry in Munich, archive: Bibliography Emil Kraepelin: Printed matter, estate and letters, selected secondary literature. mpipsykl.mpg.de ( Memento from June 2, 2009 in the Internet Archive )

Web links

Commons : Emil Kraepelin  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Emil Kraepelin  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Holger Steinberg: The Silesian Provincial Insane Asylum Leubus in the 19th century with special consideration of the work of Emil Kraepelin. Würzburg medical history reports 21, 2002, pp. 533–553; Pp. 540-547; here p. 541 f.
  2. ^ Emil Kraepelin: The work curve. In: Wilhelm Wundts Philosophical Studies Volume 19, 1902, pp. 459–507
  3. Burgmair, Wolfgang, and Matthias M. Weber: The money is well invested, and you don't need to have any regrets: James Loeb, a German-American patron of science between the German Empire and the Weimar Republic . Historical Journal 277 (2003): 343-378.
  4. ^ Wolfgang U. Eckart : Medicine and War. Germany 1914-1924 , on Emil Kraepelin and the German Research Institute for Psychiatry in Munich, pp. 170 + 171, Ferdinand Schöningh Verlag Paderborn 2014. ISBN 978-3-506-75677-0 .
  5. cf. Andrea Adams: Psychopathology and "Race". Negotiations of "racial" difference in the study of psychological suffering (1890-1933). (Science Studies) 2013, p. 94 ( partial online view )
  6. ^ Emil Kraepelin (1913): Psychiatry. A textbook for students and doctors. 8th edition, Leipzig Barth. Volume 3, Clinical Psychiatry. P. 668
  7. ^ Zvi Lothane : The partnership of psychoanalysis and psychiatry in the treatment of psychosis and borderline states: its evolution in North America , published in: The Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry, 39 (3): 499-524, 2011 .
  8. Wolfgang U. Eckart : Melancholie, Wahn, Wahnsinn , in: Rainer M. Holm-Hadullah, Andreas Draguhn (ed.): The many faces of depression. Causes, manifestations and treatment methods, writings of the Marsilius-Kolleg of the University of Heidelberg, Volume 13, Universitätsverlag WINTER Heidelberg, 2015, pp. 33–57.
  9. ^ Emil Kraepelin (1899): Psychiatry. A textbook for students and doctors. 6th edition, Leipzig JA Barth. ( Cover of the 6th edition )
  10. Nick Craddock, Michael J. Owen: The beginning of the end for the Kraepelinian dichotomy. ( Memento of February 11, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) In: The British Journal of Psychiatry . No. 186, 2005, pp. 364-366
  11. Nick Craddock, Michael J. Owen: Rethinking psychosis: the disadvantages of a dichotomous classification now outweigh the advantages. ( Memento from January 13, 2018 in the Internet Archive ) In: World Psychiatry. Vol. 6, No. 2, June 2007; Pp. 20-27.
  12. ^ Bangen, Hans: History of the drug therapy of schizophrenia. Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-927408-82-4 pp. 27-31 Kraepelin and Bleuler on drugs
  13. Dorothea Buck : 70 years of coercion in German psychiatric institutions - experienced and witnessed . (PDF; 52 kB) January 20, 2008
  14. Chapter 9, "Madhouse"