Wilhelm Griesinger

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Griesinger, Wilhelm


Born July 29, 1817, in Stuttgart; died Oct. 26, 1868, in Berlin. German psychiatrist and neuropathologist: one of the founders of scientific psychiatry.

Griesinger received his medical education at the Universities of Tübingen and Zürich. In 1847 he became professor of internal diseases and psychiatry at Tübingen. In 1864 he became head of the departments of psychiatry and neuropathology, which were combined on his initiative.

Griesinger constructed a doctrine of psychic diseases on general pathological and clinical principles and used associative psychology in psychopathology. He struggled against the speculative and moralizing doctrine of the “psychics” and their adversaries, the “somatics,” who regarded psychic disturbances only as phenomena accompanying any disease. According to Griesinger psychic disturbances always indicate a diseased condition of the brain; however, the condition may also be caused by psychic factors. He understood the various forms of psychic disturbances as stages in a single pathological process. Griesinger regarded the brain as the “bearer of psychic functions”—that is, he defined the relationship between psychic activity and its material substrate (the brain) as precisely the relationship between function and organ. He affirmed the reflex nature of psychic activity.

Griesinger identified the final goal of psychiatry as the establishment of “brain pathology.” He was one of the first to introduce the principles of “nonconstraint” of psychic patients. He worked on problems of teaching psychiatry. Griesinger founded the Berlin Scientific Society of Neuropathologists and Psychiatrists and the journal Archiv für Psychiatrie und Nervenheilkunde (Archive for Psychiatry and the Study of Nervous Diseases; 1868).


Dushevnye bolezni, 3rd ed. St. Petersburg, 1881. (Translated from German.)


Kannabikh, Iu. V. Istoriia psikhiatrii. [Moscow, 1929.]
Shternberg, E. Ia. “Vil’gel’m Grizinger.” Zhurnal nevropalologii i psikhiatrii imeni S. S. Korsakova, 1967, vol. 67, part 7.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.