Emil Kraepelin Biography


Birthday: February 15, 1856 (Aquarius)

Born In: Neustrelitz, Germany

Emil Kraepelin was a renowned German psychiatrist who made remarkable contributions to this field of medicine and is credited as the founder of psychopharmacology and psychiatric genetics. His theories on the origin of mental disorders refuted all previous theories which according to him were not clinical. With extensive research which he conducted on his patients, throughout his career, Emil arrived at numerous conclusions which he meticulously published in his textbook on psychiatry, which consisted of nine volumes. He pioneered the principles which laid the founding stone for modern day psychiatry. He was of the opinion that mental illness as any other ailment should be clinically observed and classified into different category based on the similarity of syndrome. He initiated many reforms in the then existing condition of asylums which considered all mental disorders as variations of single disease. It was Kraepelin who pioneered the concept of classification of mental illness into two categories, based upon the factors responsible for the disorder. Thus he categorized the various mental illnesses as exogenous and endogenous; exogenous being caused by external factors the latter was a result of biological or hereditary factors. His theories were quite popular during the twentieth century and Kraepelin’s contribution to psychiatry is held in high regard by physicians world-wide, till date

Quick Facts

German Celebrities Born In February

Also Known As: Крепелин, Эмиль

Died At Age: 70

Born Country: Germany

Psychologists Psychiatrists

Died on: October 7, 1926

place of death: Munich, Germany

Founder/Co-Founder: Psychopharmacology and Psychiatric genetics

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education: Leipzig University, University of Würzburg, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

Childhood & Early Life
Emil Kraepelin was born on 15 February, 1856 in the town of Neustrelitz in Mecklenburg-Strelitz district of Germany. As a child he was acquainted to biology through his elder brother Karl.
After completing his schooling, he embarked on study of medicine at the ‘Leipzig University’. Under the tutelage of Paul Flechsig and Wilhelm Wundt he learnt the subjects of neuropathology and experimental psychology. In 1878, he was awarded a Medical Degree from the ‘University of Würzburg’.
Emil then enrolled at the ‘University of Munich’ for his doctoral studies in 1879. With Bernhard von Gudden as his doctoral advisor, Kraepelin worked on his dissertation titled ‘The Place of Psychology in Psychiatry’.
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In 1882, Emil began work in the field of psychopharmacology at Wilhelm Wundt’s laboratory in the Leipzig University. He was also involved in the study of neurology under neurologist Wilhelm Heinrich Erb.
In his first ever publication ‘Compendium der Psychiatrie’, in 1883, Kraepelin stated the importance of modification in the evaluation of mental illness and insisted that psychiatry should be included into mainstream medical science.
In 1884, he took up a job as a senior physician in Leubus, Germany and a year later the ‘Treatment and Nursing Institute’ named Emil as their director.
The ‘University of Dorpat’ in Estonia appointed him as a professor in 1885and during his time there he was eventually promoted as the director of the healthcare and medical education institute affiliated to the university. It was in Dorpat that Emil started his work on classifying mental disorders
From 1890, Kraepelin served as the head of the psychiatric studies department at the ‘University of Heidelberg’. For over the fourteen years he was in Heidelberg, Emil worked to improvise his existing finding and publish the refined inferences in continuation to the first volume of his work ‘Compendium der Psychiatrie’.
During the period 1903-22, he workedas a professor at the ‘University of Munich’. When the ‘German Society of Psychiatry’ approached him, he pioneered the establishment of a research centre ‘German Institute for Psychiatric Research’ and supervised the entire process till the institution was established in 1917.
In 1922 he was appointed the director of Munich’s ‘Research Institute of Psychiatry’ and Kraepelin retired from academic position to concentrate on the institute.
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Major Works
Kraepelin concluded from clinical observations that the syndromes observed over time in mental diseases should form the basis of classification of these disorders rather than just the occurring similarities. He conducted exhaustive research on patients suffering with various mental disorders and categorised them into exogenous and endogenous disorders.
While exogenous disorders were a result of external factors and were considered more curable, the endogenous disorders which were attributed to biological and hereditary factors were deemed untreatable.
Another of his significant contribution which laid the foundation for modern day psychiatry was his segregation of the concept of psychosis. According to the ‘Kraepelinian dichotomy’ the mental diseases are broadly divided into ‘manic depression’ (or bipolar disorder) and ‘dementia praecox’ (or schizophrenia). In the fourth and sixth edition of his textbook on psychiatry he published his findings in detail.
Personal Life & Legacy
This famous psychiatrist breathed his last on 7 October 1926, in Munich. At the time of his death he was working on the ninth publication of his textbook on psychiatry that was published the following year.
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