Heinrich Kaan

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Heinrich Kaan (Russian: Генрих Каан, 1816 – 1893) was a 19th-century physician known for his seminal contributions to early sexology. He was the personal physician to the Czar.


Heinrich Kaan was born in Vienna. Different sources identify him as Ruthenian (an ethnic group living in what is now Belarus and Ukraine) or as Russian. He graduated at Akademisches Gymnasium and studied philosophy at the University of Vienna from 1832-1834, then medicine from 1834-1839. Probably in the years 1838 to 1839, he also studied at the University of Padua. He earned his Doctor's degree in Vienna in 1840. Afterwards he went to Saint Petersburg where he worked in a hospital for women[1] and in a hospital for patients with typhoid fever.

He returned to Austria in 1850 and practiced for several months at the Hospital of the Sisters of Mercy in Lemberg (today Lviv, Ukraine). Afterwards he worked as a spa doctor and homeopathist Meran, Fusch, Innsbruck and Bad Ischl. He settled in Bad Ischl in 1862 or 1864 and practiced there at least until 1888. He died in his city of birth, Vienna, in 1893.

Heinrich Kaan was married and had two children.

Work and influence[edit]

Kaan is primarily known for an early scientific approach to sexology. He published his main work Psychopathia Sexualis in 1844 in Leipzig in Latin. In this work he reinterpreted the Christian sexual sins as diseases of the mind. Kaan was the first to do so and his work had a high impact. It started the "medicalization of sin" in cultural history, the idea that paraphilia are neither harmless curiosities nor religious sins but mental diseases. Physicians and psychiatrists after him were quick to take up these ideas. Kaan also coined the words deviation, aberration, and perversion as medical terms.

Kaan's main goal was to fight such "sexual psychopathies", above all masturbation, which he considered at the root of all sexual disorders. His work was highly influential on Richard von Krafft-Ebing and Sigmund Freud. Richard von Krafft-Ebing even chose the same title for his own main work, Psychopathia Sexualis (1886).

See also[edit]


  • Philipp Gutmann: Zur Reifizierung des Sexuellen im 19. Jahrhundert: Der Beginn einer Scientia sexualis, dargestellt anhand dreier Texte von Hermann Joseph Löwenstein, Joseph Häussler und Heinrich Kaan. Lang, Peter Frankfurt 1998 ISBN 3631336861 (in German, contains a translation of Kaan's Psychopathia Sexualis)


  1. According to [1], it was a hospital for prostitutes


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