Paul Flechsig

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Paul Flechsig

Paul Emil Flechsig (born June 29, 1847 in Zwickau , † July 22, 1929 in Leipzig ) was a German psychiatrist and brain researcher . He is considered to be one of the “fathers of neuroanatomy ”.


His father Emil Flechsig was a deacon in St. Mary's Church in Zwickau and, as a theology student, occupied an apartment with the later composer Robert Schumann in 1828 .

Paul Flechsig studied medicine at the University of Leipzig from 1865 to 1870 under Ernst Heinrich Weber , Eduard Friedrich Weber and Carl Ludwig . During this time he became a member of the Alte Leipziger Landsmannschaft Afrania , to which he remained connected until the end of his life. He received his doctorate in Leipzig in 1870 with a thesis on syphilitic meningitis . In 1872 he was assistant to Ernst Leberecht Wagner at the Pathological Institute at Leipzig University. In 1873 Carl Ludwig entrusted him with the management of the histological department at the Physiological Institute. In 1875 he completed his habilitation there with a thesis on the pathways in the human brain and spinal cord . In 1877 he became an associate professor at the newly established chair for psychiatry. He held his inaugural lecture at the University of Leipzig on March 4, 1882 on the subject of the physical foundations of mental disorders. Flechsig criticized the term "mental illness". He wanted to have it replaced by the “correct word nervous disease”.

From 1884 to 1921 he was a full professor of psychiatry at the University of Leipzig and tasked with building a new mental hospital. In the academic year 1894/95 he headed the university as rector . In his Rector's speech Brain and Soul , he summarized his thoughts on the localization of the higher brain functions on the basis of neuroanatomical analyzes for the first time. His successor on the chair was Oswald Bumke .

Flechsig's best-known patient was Daniel Paul Schreber . According to Janet Malcolm , Jeffrey M. Masson found in Sigmund Freud's library an article written by Flechsig in 1884, which he had sent to Freud and in which he reported that he was doing castration experiments on hysterical and obsessive-compulsive neurotic patients in his institution. Sigmund Freud did not mention this knowledge in his 1911 essay Psychoanalytical Comments on an autobiographical case of paranoia in which he attempted to analyze Daniel Paul Schreber and his relationship with Flechsig using Schreber's autobiographical work.

Grave slab for Paul Flechsig and his wife, Südfriedhof Leipzig, Ludolf Colditz family grave

In 1926 he was elected a member of the Leopoldina . Since 1885 he was a full member of the Saxon Academy of Sciences in Leipzig . He was an honorary doctor from the University of Leipzig and the University of Oxford .


Flechsig's so-called Flechsig's rule goes back, according to which only association fields and not primary cortical fields are connected by commissure fibers . In the work on Anatomical Names published by Hermann Triepel, Flechsig is referred to as the founder of the evolutionary method of investigating the internal structure of the central nervous system. In neuroanatomy, the dorsal spinocerebellar tract is named after him as Flechsig's bundle (1876). In 1893 he introduced an epilepsy therapy with opium and bromine , later also known as the “Flechsig cure” , in which he suggested a combination of the usual bromine therapy with a previous six-week administration of opium.


Paul Flechsig Institute for Brain Research

The Paul Flechsig Institute for Brain Research at the University of Leipzig is named after Flechsig.

The Art Nouveau artist Max Lange created a medal of honor .

Fonts (selection)

  • The pathways in the human brain and spinal cord based on developmental studies. Engelmann, Leipzig 1876. (digitized version)
  • About systemic diseases in the spinal cord. Wigand, Leipzig 1878.
  • The physical foundations of mental disorders. Lecture given at the beginning of the teaching post at the University of Leipzig on March 4, 1882. Veit, Leipzig 1882.
  • Human brain plan. Designed based on our own research. With explanatory texts. Veit, Leipzig 1883.
  • For the gynecological treatment of hysterical people. In: Centralblatt for Neurology and Psychiatry. Volume 7 (1884), pp. 437-440.
  • For the gynecological treatment of hysteria. In: Neurological Centralblatt. Volume 3 (1884), pp. 433-439, 457-468.
  • For the gynecological treatment of hysterical people. In: Archives for Psychiatry. Volume 16 (1885), pp. 559-561.
  • The insane clinic of the University of Leipzig and its effectiveness in the years 1882–1886. Veit, Leipzig 1888.
  • About a new method of staining the central nervous system and its results with regard to the connection between ganglion cells and nerve fibers. In: Archives for Physiology, Physiological Department of the Archives for Anatomy and Physiology. 1889, p. 537 f.
  • Brain and soul. Leipzig 1894; 2nd, improved edition: Veit, Leipzig 1896.
  • The localization of the mental processes, in particular the human sensations. Lecture given at the 68th Assembly of German Naturalists and Doctors in Frankfurt a. M. Veit, Leipzig 1896.
  • The limits of sanity and disease. Speech given to celebrate the birthday of Sr. Majesty King Albert of Saxony on April 28, 1896. 1896 ( ).
  • Anatomy of the human brain and spinal cord based on myelogenetics. Thieme, Leipzig 1920.
  • My myelogenetic brain theory. With a biographical introduction. Berlin 1927.


  • Daniel Paul Schreber: Memories of a nervous patient. Mutze, Leipzig 1903, therein a. a. Open letter to Mr. Geh. Rath Prof. Dr. Sinewy.
  • Heinrich SchippergesFlechsig, Paul. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 5, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1961, ISBN 3-428-00186-9 , p. 226 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Erhard Oeser : History of brain research. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2002, pp. 205–211: The discovery of the association centers: Paul Flechsig .
  • Zvi Lothane : Paul Flechsig, University Psychiatry and the First Biological Psychiatry , in: Zvi Lothane: Seelenmord und Psychiatrie. On the rehabilitation of Schreber, Library of Psychoanalysis, Psychosozial-Verlag 2004, pp. 315–390.
  • Holger Steinberg: Paul Flechsig (1847–1929) - a brain researcher as a psychiatrist. In: Matthias C. Angermeyer, Holger Steinberg (Ed.): 200 years of psychiatry at the University of Leipzig. People and Concepts. Springer Medicine, Heidelberg 2005, pp. 81-120, doi: 10.1007 / 3-540-28048-0 2 .
  • Michael Hagner : Flechsig, Paul Emil. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 403 f.

Web links

Wikisource: Paul Flechsig  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Michael Hagner: Flechsig, Paul Emil. 2005, p. 403.
  2. Steinberg 2001, p. 58.
  3. Zvi Lothane : Soul murder and psychiatry. On the rehabilitation of Schreber, Library of Psychoanalysis, Psychosozial-Verlag 2004, here: Chapter 6: Paul Flechsig, University Psychiatry and the First Biological Psychiatry, pp. 315–390.
  4. Janet Malcolm : Father, dear father ... From the Sigmund Freud Archives. Translation by Eva Brückner-Pfaffenberger. Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main 1986, p. 126.
  5. ^ Members of the SAW: Paul Flechsig. Saxon Academy of Sciences, accessed on October 18, 2016 .
  6. Flechsig's rule . In: Klaus Poeck : Neurology . 8th edition. Springer, Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-540-53810-0 , p. 142.
  7. Flechsig, Paul . In: Hermann Triepel : The anatomical names . Your derivation and pronunciation. (1905). 26th edition. Verlag von JF Bergmann, Munich 1962, edited by Robert Herrlinger , p. 85.
  8. ^ Holger Steinberg: Psychiatry at the University of Leipzig: A two hundred year tradition. In: Würzburger medical history reports 23, 2004, pp. 270–312; here: p. 283 f.
  9. Paul Flechsig: About a new treatment method for epilepsy. In: Neurologisches Centralblatt 12, 1893, pp. 229-231.
  10. Paul Flechsig Institute for Brain Research , accessed on October 10, 2018