On This Day … 20 June

People (Births)

People (Deaths)

  • 1925 – Josef Breuer, Austrian physician and psychologist (b. 1842).

Johannes Heinrich Schultz

Johannes Heinrich Schultz (20 June 1884 to 19 September 1970) was a German psychiatrist and an independent psychotherapist. Schultz became world-famous for the development of a system of self-hypnosis called autogenic training.


He studied medicine in Lausanne, Göttingen (where he met Karl Jaspers) and Breslau. He earned his doctorate from Göttingen in 1907. After receiving his medical license in 1908, he practiced at the polyclinic at the Medical University Clinic at Göttingen until 1911. Afterwards he worked at the Paul-Ehrlich Institute in Frankfurt, at the insane asylum at Chemnitz and finally at the Psychiatric University Clinic at Jena under Otto Binswanger, where he earned his habilitation in 1915.

During the First World War, he served as director of a sanitorium in Belgium. In 1919 he became a professor of Psychiatry and Neuropathology at Jena. In 1920 he became Chief Doctor and scientific leader at Dr. Heinrich Lahmann’s sanatorium Weisser Hirsch in Dresden. In 1924, he established himself as a psychiatrist in Berlin.

From 1925-26 he was a member of the founding committee for the first General Doctors’ Congress for Psychotherapy, board member of the General Medical Society for Psychotherapy (established in 1927). From 1928 he advised the organisation’s newsletter, and after 1930 he co-edited (with Arthur Kronfeld and Rudolf Allers) the journal, now named the Zentralblatt für Psychotherapie. In 1933 he became a board member of the renamed German Medical Society for Psychotherapy under Matthias Heinrich Göring and from 1936 under this vice-director a board member of the German Institute for Psychological Research and Psychotherapy (Deutsches Institut für psychologische Forschung und Psychotherapie) as well as director of the polyclinic.

Nazi Period

In 1933 he began research on his guidebook on sexual education, Geschlecht, Liebe, Ehe, in which he focused on homosexuality and explored the topics of sterilisation and euthanasia. In 1935 he published an essay titled Psychological consequences of sterilisation and castration among men, which supported compulsory sterilization of men in order to eliminate hereditary illnesses. Soon after he was appointed deputy director of the Göring Institute in Berlin, which was the headquarters of the Deutsches Institut für psychologische Forschung und Psychotherapie (German institute for psychological research and psychotherapy).

Through this institute, he had an active role in the extermination of mentally handicapped individuals in the framework of the Aktion T4 programme.

There he began to test many of his theories on homosexuality. Schultz strongly believed that homosexuality generally was not hereditary and that most homosexuals became so through perversion. He stated on numerous occasions that homosexuals displayed “scrubby and stunted forms of personality development”. Consequently, he also believed that homosexuality was curable through intense psychotherapy. During his time at the Göring Institute, 510 homosexuals were recorded to have received numerous psychotherapeutic treatments and 341 were deemed to be cured by the end of the treatments. Most of his subjects were convicted homosexuals brought in from concentration camps. After treating his patients, Schultz tested the treatments’ effectiveness by forcing them to have sex with prostitutes. In a case study he later released, in which he briefly discussed the process of determining whether a young SS soldier, who had been sentenced to death for homosexual acts, was ‘cured’, Schultz stated: “Those who were considered incurable were sent back to the concentration camps, but ‘cured’ homosexuals, such as the previously mentioned SS soldier, were pardoned and released into military service”. In this way Schultz actually saved numerous accused homosexuals from the hellish life of a concentration camp but he stated later that “successfully treated subjects were sent to the front, where they most probably were killed in action”.

After the war, the Göring Institute was disbanded but Schultz faced no repercussions for his more dubious research and methods during the past decade. In fact he released a case study on his work with homosexuals in 1952 titled Organstörungen und Perversionen im Liebesleben, in which he admitted to the inhumanity of some of his experiments but also still supported their results. In fact he continued to support his findings and even continued to advocate paragraph 175 for the rest of his life.

In 1956, he became editor of the journal Psychotherapie, and in 1959 founder of the German Society for Medical Hypnosis (Deutschen Gesellschaft für ärztliche Hypnose).

Josef Breuer

Josef Breuer (15 January 1842 to 20 June 1925) was a distinguished physician who made key discoveries in neurophysiology, and whose work in the 1880s with his patient Bertha Pappenheim, known as Anna O., developed the talking cure (cathartic method) and laid the foundation to psychoanalysis as developed by his protégé Sigmund Freud.


Breuer, working under Ewald Hering at the military medical school in Vienna, was the first to demonstrate the role of the vagus nerve in the reflex nature of respiration. This was a departure from previous physiological understanding, and changed the way scientists viewed the relationship of the lungs to the nervous system. The mechanism is now known as the Hering–Breuer reflex.

Independent of each other in 1873, Breuer and the physicist and mathematician Ernst Mach discovered how the sense of balance (i.e. the perception of the head’s imbalance) functions: that it is managed by information the brain receives from the movement of a fluid in the semicircular canals of the inner ear. That the sense of balance depends on the three semicircular canals was discovered in 1870 by the physiologist Friedrich Goltz, but Goltz did not discover how the balance-sensing apparatus functions.

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