Freud as an ichthyologist

 Biographies, Fish  Kommentarer inaktiverade för Freud as an ichthyologist
Aug 112010
 

Life is full of surTitle of Freud paper on Lampreyprises, strange revelations, or maybe just shortcut or short memory. Tidying up my office the other day, this tractate caught hold of my curious eye.  A not so short dissertation of the spinal ganglia and the spinal cord in the lamprey, authored by the medical student Sigm. Freud [Sigmund Freud], and published in the Proceedings of the royal Academy of Sciences in Vienna, Austria in 1878. Same journal which carried so many of the more famous ichthyologist Franz Steindachner.

Wow, psychoanalysis started with the dissection of the central nervous system of one of the most primitive fishes! Only hagfish is lower on the tree, beyond that there are only invertebrates. Or maybe not. Whereas Freud’s ichthyological career passed relatively unnoticed among ichthyologists, he is well known as a neuroanatomist among the physiologists (neurophysiologists, to be precise). He started his career with eel, spending four weeks trying to find male eel in Trieste, Italy. Up till then testes had not been found in European eel. His studies on lampreys resulted in two papers and one methodological note; the eel study in one paper, somewhat inconclusive, but later confirmed to have located the testes. Freud apparently preferred neuroanatomy and remained with this subject for years.

Is that a cigar, or ...

My recollection of Freudian psychoanalysis (in which fish are scarce) is the more frequently told interpretation of snakes in dreams as the [fear of] penises. The myriad of dream analysis scam sites on the web nodd affirmatively. But we all know Freud must have been inspired by the eels and lampreys more than snakes into developing his untestable dream explanations. And people rarely dream about eels and even less about lampreys. They rather dream of snakes, although there were never any snakes in the dreams I remember (but plenty of fish). So, on the simple side of having it, psychoanalysis is all about slithering fish.

I doubt there is any 20th Century ichthyologist more famous than Sigmund Freud. Regrettably for him, he is not in boldface in the annals of fish science. For what I can find there are more batmani or [led] zeppelini than freudi among fish, so not even more famous than a comics character or a guitar hero (not a single freudi, in fact). I am not sure this entry does anything to help improve on the recognition and fame of Sigmund Freud, but I am sure many will be interested to know about this connection between the eel and the mind.

Freud’s ichthyological contributions

  • Freud, S. 1877. Über den Ursprung der hinteren Nervenwurzeln im Rückenmarke von Ammocoetes (Petromyzon Planeri). Sitzungsberichte Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftlichen Classe der der k. Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien, Abt. III, 75: 15-27.
  • Freud, S. 1877. Beobachtungen über Gestaltung und feineren Bau der als Hoden beschriebenen Lappenorgane des Aals. Sitzungsberichte der Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftlichen Classe der k. Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien, Abt. III, 75: 419-431.
  • Freud, S. 1878. Über Spinalganglien und Rückenmark des Petromyzon. Sitzungsberichte der Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftlichen Classe der k. Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien, Abt. III, 78: 81–167.
  • Freud, S. 1879. Eine Notiz über eine Methode zur anatomischen Präparation des Nervensystems. Zentralblatt der medizinischen Wissenschaft, 17/26: 468-469.

The mouth of a dead lamprey

Species referenced
Otocinclus batmani Lehmann, 2006 in Neotropical Ichthyology
Lepidocephalichthys zeppelini Havird & Tangjitjaroen, 2006 in Zootaxa
The lamprey studied by Freud may have been Lampetra planeri

Image credits
Freud portrait by Max Halberstadt, modified; original public domain; modified CC-BY-NC Sven Kullander, 2010
Other images Sven Kullander, CC-BY-NC, 2010

Artedi lives!

 Ichthyology, Video  Kommentarer inaktiverade för Artedi lives!
Aug 032010
 

Some of you may have observed the excellent movie by Elizabeth Watson for the Artedi Symposium in 2005. It misses the Artedi part, however. Now, Elizabeth kindly made available also this critical drama. Petrus Artedi working at the waterfront, barefoot, quill pen in hand and on the whole rather charming and primitive. Starring Jonathan Ready in 18th century outfit worthy of any ichthyological master.

Swedish as we are, and I grew up fishing in Örnsköldsvik not many kilometers from Artedi’s birthplace in Anundsjö (many years later, though, he moved to Nordmaling before I arrived), we cannot simply forget the man who discovered systematics, the genus concept, and the descriptive method of Ichthyology, although everyone else seems willing to do so. The discussion goes on and on, did Linnaeus simply plagiarize Artedi? Ted Pietsch, American but from Washington state which is almost as cold as Sweden, has a new book out on the interaction between Linnaeus and Artedi, which will be given some lines here eventually. The Royal Skyttean Society, one of Sweden’s 18 noble academies, just published the proceedings of their Artedi Symposium in 2005, and in 2011 it is again time for the third Artedi lectures event.

To those who haven’t heard of Artedi, but are going to watch Elizabeth’s film: Petrus Artedi, born 1705, in Anundsjö, north Sweden, studied with Linnaeus in Uppsala, sharing interest in natural history and classifications. Both then travelled to the Netherlands to study and graduate. In 1735, Artedi drowned in a canal in Amsterdam. Linnaeus took care of his manuscripts and published them in 1738 as Ichthyologia, sive Opera omnia de Piscibus, which was a highly innovative and complete treatise of ichthyology. The fish taxonomy in it found its way into Systema Naturae. The film was shot in September 2005 on the bank of Edsviken Bay, on the premises of the Ulriksdal Palace, the first building dating to 1643, home to queens and kings, among them Adolf Fredrik and  Lovisa Ulrika (1720-1782), whose natural history collections were studied by Linnaeus. It is now the seat of Swedish WWF. For what we know, Artedi was never there, but Linnaeus was (me too), and you can feel the 1700s in the bare branches of the trees, the water’s reflections, and Artedi’s frozen feet.

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