Joseph Breuer was an Austrian physician and physiologist who was a friend and mentor to Sigmund Freud. In a sense, he is regarded as the "grandfather" of modern psychoanalysis.

From an early age, Breuer was an excellent student and had completed medical studies at the University of Vienna by the age of 25.  Although he had achieved considerable academic distinction, Breuer chose to focus on his private practice while conducting research funded entirely with his own earnings.  He was therefore never affiliated with any university or institution.

In the earlier years of his career, Breuer was more involved in physiology than anything else.  He explored the nature of autonomic functions such as respiration, and also conducted research on the nature of human balance (as it relates to the ear's semi-circular canals).

By 1880 however, Breuer had become acquainted with a young man named Sigmund Freud and the two began a vibrant professional dialogue.  Specifically, Breuer revealed that he had successfully treated a patient suffering from hysteria, through hypnosis and the exploration of her sub-conscious thoughts.  The discussion would eventually result in a joint publication entitled Studies on Hysteria (1895). 

Shortly thereafter, Breuer and Freud met with a philosophical disagreement and their friendship abruptly ended.  However, those early collaborations are now regarded as formative in that they greatly influenced Freud's work in psychoanalysis.

Breuer continued practicing successfully for the remainder of his life— he treated many Austrian dignitaries, and was the recipient of several professional accolades.