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Heinrich Kaan (Russian: Генрих Каан; 8 February 1816 – 24 May 1893[1]) was a 19th-century physician known for his seminal contributions to early sexology. Different sources identify him as Ruthenian[2] (an ethnic group living in what is now Belarus and Ukraine) or as Russian.[3] He was the personal physician to the Czar.[4][5]

Heinrich Kaan
Born8 February 1816
Died24 May 1893 (1893-05-25) (aged 77)


Psychopathia SexualisEdit

Not to be confused with book of the same name by Richard von Krafft-Ebing (1886) that is considered more influential

Kaan is primarily known for an early scientific approach to sexology i.e. a scientifically based theoretical study of sex as opposed to earlier fields of erotology—the more practical study of lovemaking.[3] He published his main work Psychopathia Sexualis in 1844 in Leipzig in Latin and it has been translated into English and German.[6] A direct translation of the title is Psychopathies of Sexuality. In this work he reinterpreted the Christian sexual sins as diseases of the mind.

Until then, concepts like deviation, aberration, and perversion were interpreted in a theological context as "false" religious beliefs or heresy.[7] Kaan's novel[7] idea was to turn them into medical concepts, to reinterpret them as mental diseases. Physicians and psychiatrists after him were quick to take up these ideas - a process which collectively is referred to as the medicalization of sin in cultural history.[2] It is also referred to as "degeneracy theory".[4]

Kaan's work was within the "onanism literature" tradition[8] of his time. To Kaan, masturbation was at the root of all sexual disorders, deviations and unnatural lusts as it involved extravagant fantasies. He also considered heterosexual intercourse as psychopathological, if it comprised sexual fantasies.[8] His main goal was to fight such sexual psychopathies, above all masturbation.[9]

Michel Foucault referred to Kaan's work in his mid-1970s lectures on the discourse of the nature of normality and abnormality. According to Foucault Kaan's work was the first medical text exclusively devoted to the study of sexuality. However, Foucault recognized it as a symptom of a shift in the discourse on sexuality, rather than necessarily an influential work in itself.[10] Scholars have acknowledged Kaan's contributions, relative to those of Richard von Krafft-Ebing and Sigmund Freud.[11]

Michel Foucault said during a course of lectures he did in 1974-75 at the Collège de France, that the Psychopathia Sexualis” (1844) “was the first treatise of psychiatry to speak only of sexual pathology but the last (monograph) to speak of sexuality solely in Latin[12]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Sigusch, Volkmar (2003). "Heinrich Kaan - der Verfasser der ersten "Psychopathia sexualis". Eine biografische Skizze" [Heinrich Kaan - the author of the first "Psychopathia sexualis". A biographical draft.]. Zeitschrift für Sexualforschung (in German). 16 (2): 116–142. doi:10.1055/s-2003-40685. ISSN 0932-8114.
  2. ^ a b "Archive for Sexology". Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Archived from the original on 2009-08-31. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
  3. ^ a b "The Birth of Sexology". The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, Inc. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
  4. ^ a b Money and Lamacz 1989:20
  5. ^ Annemarie Leibbrand-Wettley, Werner Leibbrand 1972:425
  6. ^ Heinrich Kaan's Psychopathia Sexualis (1844): A Classic Text in the History of Sexuality ed. Benjamin Kahan trans. Melissa Haynes
  7. ^ a b Haeberle, Erwin J. (October 2008). "Archive for Sexology,. Das 19. Jahrhundert, Stand: 13" (in German). Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Archived from the original on 21 June 2008. Retrieved 27 May 2009.
  8. ^ a b Weiss 2007, p129, 05_TEIL2-4.pdf
  9. ^ Ehle 2008:8 footnote 17
  10. ^ Foucault et al.
  11. ^ Sigusch 2002
  12. ^ McLemee, Scott (5 October 2016). "Sex on the Brain". Inside Higher Education. Inside Higher Education. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
  13. ^ Hauser 2000