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Archives for the History of Psychiatry


PD Dr. rer. medic. habil. Holger Steinberg ​
​Address:​Klinik und Poliklinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie
Semmelweisstr. 10, 04103 Leipzig
​Phone:​+49 (0)341 - 97 24113
​Fax:​+49 (0)341 - 97 24539


The research group

​The Archives have been in existence since 1996 and as a research unit integrated into a university department of psychiatry been a unique institution in the German-speaking countries. From a methodological point of view the Archives have focussed on basic research, that is to say on tracing and interpreting archival sources and on making primary, published sources of the field available to a wider audience. On the other hand the Archives' research output has always to embed medicohistorical knowledge into a wider timely, social and cultural perspective. The Archives are now well-known for their thorough biographical studies following a sociohistorical approach to the neuroscietiny_mce_markerces. According to this approach all projects are either carried out or supervised by a historian with a broad medicohistorical experience and specialisation. In realising the individual projects, the Archives are more and more relying on and integrating the medical-psychiatric expertise of doctors both at the Department for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at Leipzig University Clinic and other clinics, institutes and institutions. The Archives' self-understanding is that of an interdisciplinary research workshop.

Focus in the Archives work has been on research in the history of neurology and psychiatry in the German-speaking countries in the 19th and 20th century. A constantly rising number of both national and international co-operations have helped broadening the original focus on local developments, although the institutional history of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at Leipzig University as well as the impact of Leipzig neuroscientists on the history of their subject will continue playing a significant role. Yet future research will consider etiological, diagnostic and therapeutic psychiatric concepts as well as the history of mental symptoms, syndromes, and illnesses to a much wider degree. For the time being the history of psychiatry in the early years of the German Democratic Republic, a.k.a. Eastern Germany will constitute a major part in our research activities.

The Archives is striving to install a research library for the history of psychiatry. By now this library has gathered about 2,000 volumes of primary sources and secondary research publications which form part of Leipzig University Library (Department of Medical Literature) plus a collection of 1,050 monographs and about 2,000 volumes of medical (psychiatric and neurological) journals which formed the library of Leipzig Dösen Asylum. The latter collection has been entrusted to the Archives as permanent loan to enhance the basis of a joint research library on the basis of a cooperation treaty between the University of Leipzig and Park-Krankenhaus Leipzig GmbH as the legal successor of Dösen Asylum. In addition to that several thousands of papers and studies - mainly secondary sources - have been collected to add to the holdings of the library. Against this background the Archives presumably holds one of the biggest collections in Eastern Germany focussing on the history of psychiatry. Yet due to historical circumstances the Archives do not own archival sources of the university department itself, neither patients' files nor administrative records. Hence no enquiries in this direction can be processed by the Archives.

Last but not least, the Archives have been contributing to students' tuition through an elective course, to be passed as one of several alternatives during the preliminary studies, on the ‘History of German psychiatry in the 19th and 20th century' and an independent postgraduate colloquium.


​1. The History of Psychiatry at Leipzig University

  • History of the University Chair (since 1811) and the hospial (1882)
  • Important Staff, especially doctors in psychiatry and psychotherapy and their concepts
  • The time in the Soviet occupied zone and the early GDR 1945 - 1964 under Dietfried Müller-Hegemann (1910 - 1989)

2. The History of Psychiatry in the Soviet occupied zone and the early GDR

(Cooperating partner: Research Team on Philosophy and the History of Psychiatry at the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at Rostock University headed by PD Dr. med. Ekkehardt Kumbier)

  • Specific contributions made by East German psychiatrists and psychotherapists to the conceptual history of psychiatry and psychotherapy
  • GDR psychiatry as a medical discipline with a specific typology as a result of political and ideological influencing

3. The History of Electric and Electromagnetic Methods of Brain Stimulation for Treating Mental Disorders in 19th-century German-speaking Psychiatry

  • The discussion around the application, effects, indications and the mode of action of electric current
  • Pioneering studies by Rudolph Gottfried Arndt (1835 - 1900) und Wilhelm Tigges (1830 - 1914)
  • Early vagus nerv stimulations

4. Life and Work of Johann Christian August Heinroth (1773 - 1843)

  • Life, academic and medical career and achievements
  • Heinroth's concept of body and soul (or psychosomatic concept)
  • Psychiatry as the application of anthropology and theology

5. Life and Work of Paul Julius Möbius (1853 - 1907)

  • Life, his work at the university and his achievements as a doctor, researcher and publicist
  • The classification of mental and neurological illnesses at around 1890
  • Contributions to the conceptual history of psychogenetic illnesses, in particular of hysteria
  • Möbius and the electrotherapeutical approach and his role in the tabes-syphilis controversy

6. Life and Work of Emil Kraepelin (1856 - 1926)

  • Years in Leipzig as a student, intern and assistant at Wilhelm Wundt's (1832 - 1920) laboratory for experimental psychology, Paul Flechsig's (1847 - 1929) psychiatric clinic and Wilhelm Erb's (1840 - 1921) Medical Outpatient Department at Leipzig University 1874 / 75, 1877, 1882 / 83
  • Early life and work until his appointment to the chair of psychiatry at Dorpat University 1891

MD theses

​MD theses in progress

  • Christian Molik-Oeser: Introduction of psychotropy drugs in the GDR - the example of the Psychiatry University Hospital Leipzig
  • Ralf Sternitzke: Forensic psychiatry at Waldheim asylum in the 2nd half of the 19th century
  • Mareike Gnoth: Suicidality in German-language psychiatric schoolbooks
  • Katrin Bart: Work biography of Bernhard Schwarz (1918 - 1991)
  • Martin Jahn: Paul Ferdinand Schilder's neuroscience and neurological studies

Completed MD theses

  • 05 / 2017 - Rainald Schmidt: Müller-Hegemann's classification of depressions as suggestion to the conceptualization of affective disorders. A critical analysis.
  • 01 / 2017 - Andrea Weidinger: On the history of obsessive-compulsive disorders in German-speaking countries: Their position in the transformation of nosological classifications until the beginning of the 20th century and the importance of historical works for the modern conception of obsessive-compulsive disorder ("magna cum laude") 
  • 08 / 2016 - Katrin Becker: Emil Kraepelin's contribution to sleep research ("magna cum laude")
  • 07 / 2016 - Constanze Engelmann: The contribution of Paul Julius Möbius (1853 - 1907) to the concept of migraine, Neuro-Ophthalmology and Morbus Basedow
  • 04 / 2015 - Christian Frauenlob: The contribution of Erwin Gustav Niessl von Mayendorf (1873 - 1943) to research of aphasia
  • 09 / 2014 - Anika Schröter: Femininity as an idea - aspects of neuroscientific, sexological and social psychological gender studies in the 19th and early 20th century
  • 07 / 2014 - Marie Steinmetz: A biobibliography of Christa Kohler (1928 - 2004): Psychotherapeutic and social psychiatric research in East Germany
  • 05 / 2014 - Abiodun Joseph: Paul Adolf Näcke (1851 - 1913) - biobibliographical aspects with particular emphasis on his role as a protagonist in criminal anthropology, forensic psychiatry and sexual pathology at the turn into the 20th century
  • 05 / 2013 - Doreen Scholtz: Theory and practice of Pavlov's sleep therapy in Eastern Germany in the 1950s and 60s - in particular under Dietfried Müller-Hegemann
  • 10 / 2012 - Astrid Lerner: The cure and caring institution in Leipzig-Dösen in 1901 - 1933 (magna cum laude)
  • 06 / 2012 - Elisabeth Richter: Johann Christian August Heinroth (1773 - 1843) as a forensic psychiatrist
  • 01 / 2012 - Julia Thormann: Rudolf Lemke's concept of "vegetative depression" of 1949 (magna cum laude)
  • 01 / 2012 - Philipp Boide: The conceptual history of Morbus Wilson in German-speaking neuroscience.


A list of the publications can be found here.
Semmelweisstr. 10, Haus 13
04103 Leipzig
0341 - 97 24530 (Chefsekretariat)
0341 - 97 24304
0341 - 97 24539