Frank J. Sulloway, Ph.D.    




Selected Publications

Born to Rebel

Darwin and Evolution

Freud, Biologist of the Mind

Public Lectures Offered

Personality Survey


Research Data on Birth Order

Curriculum Vitae




>Freud, Biologist of the Mind

Freud, Biologist of the Mind received the Pfizer Award of the History of Science Society for the best book published in the field in 1979.

Synopsis (from the book's dust jacket): This monumental intellectual biography of Freud is the first serious reassessment of the great man and his work since Ernest Jones's classic biography of almost twenty-five years ago. Drawing upon a host of new sources (including a detailed study of Freud's private library), Sulloway demonstrates that Freud, in spite of his later denials, always remained a "biologist of the mind," that, indeed, his most creative inspirations derived from biology. In a remarkable series of detective-like reconstructions he shows how psychoanalysis arose when Freud, strongly influenced by the Darwinian biology of his time and by the bizarre researches of his intimate friend Wilhelm Fliess, substituted an evolutionary for a physiological model of the mind.

As Dr. Sulloway shows, this revolutionary reassessment of Freud and psychoanalysis runs directly counter to a complex myth that both Freud and his followers have sought to propagate--a mythology that pictures Freud as the lonely "psychoanalytic hero" who, all by himself and against a universally hostile outside world, "invented" a totally original psychology through analysis of his patients and (heroically) of himself. Dr. Sulloway not only unmasks the historical distortions behind this legend, but exposes the political functions it has served in the history of psychoanalysis. Brilliantly written and meticulously researches, this revealing work completely transforms our understanding of Freud. After reading it no one will ever see the man or his work in the same light again.

Comments about Freud, Biologist of the Mind:

"An outstanding book, insightful, and written with grace." --Jerome Kagan, Harvard University

"This is, quite simply, a stunning book that completely revolutionizes one's understanding of the subject. . . . I conclude that virtually the whole of the existing literature on Freud has been rendered obsolete. . . ." --Donald Fleming, Harvard University, Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History, Emeritus

"I found . . . that I almost literally could not put [the book] down. . . . It is not only fascinating as a kind of scientific detective story but an extraordinarily significant piece of work. It is easily the most important single contribution to Freudian studies since Jones's biography, [and] an excellent complement and corrective to the latter. . . . A work of monumental scholarship, it will at once advance its unknown authors into the front ranks of intellectual historians. . . . I am frankly envious of his achievement." --Robert R. Holt, Director Emeritus, Research Center for Mental Health, New York University

"Really outstanding . . . in the plethora of materials on Freud, Sulloway really has something new to say. He blends the history of science with real scientific insight." --Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University

"Freud, Biologist of the Mind is a brilliant and fascinating work which will revolutionize our conception of the origins of psychoanalysis." --Garland Allen, Stephen G. Brush, and Betty Jo Tetter Dobbs, from the citation of the Pfizer Award Committee of the History of Science Society.


Excerpts from Reviews of Freud, Biologist of the Mind:

"No one before has documented in such painstaking detail how Freud's genius worked to transform his own and others' observations into a thoroughgoing science of mind. . . . Sulloway's "Freud" provides a though-provoking tour through this extraordinary chapter in the history of ideas" --Jean Strouse, Newsweek

"In an astonishing intellectual debut, a young and hitherto unknown scholar, Frank Sulloway, has dismantled the mythic aura surrounding Freud. . . . Sulloway has carried a torch to the back of the cave of Freudian scholarship, and he has not only cast brilliant new light on that construction, he has come close to burning it down." --Russell Schoch, Science 80

"[An] iconoclastic study. . . . The standard version of Freud's struggles, as recounted by Freud and the Freudian historians, is heavily laced with legend, and much of the story is just plain false."--John Leo, "Did Freud Build His Own Legend?," Time

"Sulloway has brought to bear great skills as an historian of ideas, an enviable degree of meticulous scholarship and a remarkable flair for lucid and agreeable prose. . . . Altogether this book deserves a wide readership among all interested in the history of ideas." --Marie Jahoda, New Scientist

"It is always a pleasant experience to work one's way through a scholarly book in which the author states articulatedly, felicitously, and with all the necessary minutiae of documentation what the reader, before his encounter with the book, had vaguely surmised, inaptly speculated about, or had fragmentary intimations of. . . . Seldom have I been so taken by a text (other than the succession of Freud's own works) as by this one. . . . A great book that will have its impact for years to come." --Paul W. Pruyser, Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic 

"Mr. Sulloway argues his brief with gusto and erudition, knocking genuine adversaries, such as the Freudian old guard . . . into a polemic heap." --George Steiner, The Sunday Times [London] 

"All such items of commonsense wisdom are thrown into doubt . . . by the publication of Frank Sulloway's Freud, Biologist of the Mind. . . . Inexorably thorough, his book brings to mind visions of those combine harvesters that sweep in unison over the great plains of the mid-West.  Straws in the wind are transformed here into solid bales. . . .  He has added both to conceptual history and to psychology at one and the same time; as you read, you really do learn something new both about the ways in which ideas take shape within a discipline, and about how wayward even the finest human intelligences are. --Liam Hudson, Quarto

"This book is a work of monumental scholarship; it is also a brilliant and ultimately tender piece of analysis." --Gerard Fromm, Commonweal

Pfizer Award Citation for Freud, Biologist of the Mind

The winner of the Pfizer Award for the best book on the history of science by an American or Canadian author published in 1979 is Freud, Biologist of the Mind, by Frank J. Sulloway. Dr. Sulloway, who is now at M.I.T., wrote the book while he was a Junior Fellow at Harvard; it was published by Basic Books.

This is the first time in its 22-year history that the Pfizer Award has been given to a book on the history of psychology or psychiatry. But Sulloway's work stands squarely in the mainstream of scholarship in the history of science since it demonstrates the relationship between the two systems of thought that have had the greatest impact on the modern view of our place in nature: Darwinian evolution and Freudian psychoanalysis.

As long as Freud was treated as a lonely hero who had completely liberated himself from the doctrines of 19th-century biology and medicine, the history of psychoanalysis tended to be an adjunct to psychoanalysis itself and was made to serve the purposes of competing schools, while offering little to attract historians of other sciences. By going "beyond the psychoanalytic legend" (as his subtitle says) Sulloway has challenged the myth that allowed Freudians to resist critical inquiry into the origins of their theories, and has shown how those theories were at least partly inspired by biological assumptions and ideas. Some of those assumptions, it is true, have since been rejected (Lamarckian inheritance and recapitulation), but others have not (that the psyche develops through stages just as do physical structures; or a neurological basis for behavioral differences). The importance of Sulloway's book seems to lie in the careful degree to which he drew out the biological foundations for Freud's thinking. It is no more a discredit to Freud, as Sulloway remarks, to show that he derived his ideas in part from others, than a discredit to Newton or Darwin to show that their ideas had roots in the work of their predecessors. Furthermore, it is no more a discredit to Freud to point out that some of the ideas he used are now rejected by biologists, than to make the same claim for Darwin (which is certainly the case).

Sulloway, by demonstrating the origins of Freud's phylogenetic speculations on the origins of civilization and morality, has done two things. (1) He has given us a glimpse of the exciting vistas that opened up for late 19th- and early 20th-century scientists as the implications of Darwinian evolution were absorbed. (2) He has also made it possible to relate Freud's ideas in a meaningful way to such diverse 20th-century developments as Carl Jung's arguments for a "collective unconscious" and Carl Sagan's delightful extrapolations from the structure of "Broca's brain." It is good historical writing that manages to illuminate not only an isolated event but what comes both before and after that event as well.

Sulloway's book has already begun to play a role in the ongoing controversy over the scientific status of psychoanalysis. Yet even a writer who defends Freud as the "most important thinker of the 20th century," and complains that Sulloway has failed to explain why his theory was so successful, is forced to concede that this book "is a work of prodigious scholarship" which "establishes a new level of empirical precision and critical skill in the analysis of Freud's life" (Paul Robinson, in Psychology Today, September 1979). As historians of science were are pleased to see that one of our colleagues can add an important dimension to a contemporary debate.

Freud, Biologist of the Mind is a brilliant and fascinating work which will revolutionized our conception of the origins of psychoanalysis. We congratulate Dr. Sulloway on his achievement."

Pfizer Award Committee: Garland Allen, Stephen G. Brush (chair), and Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs

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