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Emil Kraepelin: Sir “I-Know-Psychos”


Emil Kraepelin, in the late 1800’s, was a pioneer in the development of psychiatry. Also known as, in two very interesting minds, as Sir “I-Know-Psychos”. You know, like Sir Isaac Newton, but with social science. He is the mind-wizard of many things and all of which I shall be talking about in this absolutely incredible biography. By the end of this thing, your mind will be screaming for more of my humour .. and of course our little social science friend, Emil Kraepelin. Now, pull up some comfy chairs, folks, this is going to be one heck of a ride.



This fine young man is the discoverer, the Jacques Cartier, to our modern classification system of mental illness. Kraepelin introduced the terms schizophrenia and manic depression. In more scientific terms, they call it dementia praecox and manic-depressive psychosis. The run-down of these two illnesses are: schizophrenia is a mental disorder marked by severely impaired thinking, emotions, and behaviours. Manic depression is a mood disorder that causes radical emotional changes and mood swings.



Emil Kraepelin is also the Jacques Cartier, the Founding Father, of psychopharmacology and psychiatric genetics. The run-down of these cool cats? Psychopharmacology is the study of drug-induced changes in mood, sensation, thinking and behaviour. Psychiatric genetics, a sub-field of behavioural neurogenetics, is the study of the role of genetics in psychological conditions like alcoholism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism.



Kraepelin was the son of a civil servant, or a German “beamter”. He was born on February 15th, 1856 in Neustrelitz, Mecklenburg, Germany. He was first introduced -and obviously to the wrong science .. only kidding- to biology by his brother Karl. Emil began his medical studies at the age of eighteen at the University of Würzburg. He studied psychology with Wilhelm Wundt and wrote a prize-winning essay called "The Influence of Acute Illness in the Causation of Mental Disorders". In 1878, he received his Masters Degree.


1879, at the University of Munich, he went to work with Bernhard von Gudden and completed his thesis of The Place of Psychology in Psychiatry. Since the lovely University of Würzburg missed him so dearly, he returned to work in a neurology clinic and in his good old friend Wundt’s psychopharmacology laboratory. He was successful and had much fun hangin’ with his fellow Sir “I-Know-Psychos” friends. In 1883 his Compendium der Psychiatrie, his major work, was published.



In 1884, Kraepelin decided to cool it down a little and became a senior physician in Leubus and the following year was appointed director of the Treatment and Nursing Institute in Dresden. By the age of thirty, Kraepelin just wouldn’t stop! Not even slow down! He was named professor at the University of Dorpat. Can you say Sir “Moves-A-Lot”? And again, four years later, he moved to the University of Heidelberg, finally resting until 1904.





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