Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing

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Richard von Krafft-Ebing with his wife Maria Luise

Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing (1840-1902) was a German psychiatrist, most famous for his book, Psychopathia Sexualis, a study of sexual deviance first published in in 1886. He coined the terms sadism and masochism as medical terms.

Krafft-Ebing was born in Mannheim, Baden, Germany, educated in Prague, Austria-Hungary (presently Czech Republic), and studied medicine at the University of Heidelberg. After Krafft-Ebing graduated in medicine and finished his specialisation in psychiatry, he worked in several asylums, but he soon felt that the way those institutions operated was deceptive and he decided to become an educator. He became a professor at the universities of Strasbourg, Graz and Vienna, and also a forensic expert in Vienna.

Male homosexuality had become a criminal offence in Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire by the late 1800s, unlike lesbianism, but there was also discrimination against lesbians. After interviewing many homosexuals, both as his private patients and as a forensic expert, and reading some works in favour of gay rights, Krafft-Ebing reached the conclusion that both male and female homosexuals did not suffer from mental illness or perversion as persistent popular belief held, and became interested in the study of the subject.

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