The younger children had to maintain quiet in the house so that "Sigi" (as his mother called him) could concentrate on his studies. Early in his college years, Freud decided to pursue medicine, although he didn't envision himself caring for patients in a traditional sense.
He was fascinated by bacteriology, the new branch of science whose focus was the study of organisms and the diseases they caused.
Freud was disturbed by the current methods used to treat the mentally ill, such as long-term incarceration, hydrotherapy (spraying patients with a hose), and the dangerous (and poorly-understood) application of electric shock. One of Freud's early experiments did little to help his professional reputation.
In 1884, Freud published a paper detailing his experimentation with cocaine as a remedy for mental and physical ailments.
In 1885, Freud traveled to Paris, having received a grant to study with pioneering neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot.
The French physician had recently resurrected the use of hypnosis, made popular a century earlier by Dr. Charcot specialized in the treatment of patients with "hysteria," the catch-all name for an ailment with various symptoms, ranging from depression to seizures and paralysis, which mainly affected women.
Freud eventually found a position at a private children's hospital in Vienna.
In addition to studying childhood diseases, he developed a special interest in patients with mental and emotional disorders.
Reforms enacted by Emperor Franz Joseph in 1849 had officially abolished discrimination against Jews, lifting restrictions previously placed upon them.
Although anti-Semitism still existed, Jews were, by law, free to enjoy the privileges of full citizenship, such as opening a business, entering a profession, and owning real estate.