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Albert Moll was one of the most influential sexologists during the first three decades of the twentieth century. In contrast to his rivals Sigmund Freud and Magnus Hirschfeld, his achievements have not yet been recognised adequately. The author gives a comparative account of the work of these three protagonists. This shows that Moll formed some ideas which are regarded as psychoanalytical today before Freud, and that he, in contrast to Hirschfeld, was able to reflect critically on contemporary discourses, such as the debates on racial improvement through eugenics.
Added to these differences were strong personal animosities. When Hirschfeld escaped the Nazi terror and went to Paris, Moll denounced him in order to prevent him rebuilding a new existence in exile. Albert Moll — , Sigmund Freud — and Magnus Hirschfeld — were among the most influential sexologists of the twentieth century. Today, however, he and his work are largely forgotten and overshadowed by Freud and Hirschfeld: While elements of Freudian psychoanalysis became part of common speech, some kind of Hirschfeld-renaissance can be observed in Germany and elsewhere.
As a result, his views are discussed relatively widely, for example in the context of the debate on what is natural, social, epistemic, predisposed, essential or constructed with regard to gender and sexuality; the transactions of the Magnus Hirschfeld Society , published since , are but one example. This is even more astonishing if one considers his wide-ranging ideas, interests and activities, as well as the sharpness of his criticism in academic debates. Moll had received global recognition with his first book, Der Hypnotismus [ Hypnotism ].
He was indeed one of the first in the medical profession who tried to amalgamate psychology and scientific medicine. Unlike Hirschfeld, he repeatedly objected to the somatic and causal thinking in medicine and sexology, for example with regard to eugenics or the transplantation of the testicles from heterosexual men to homosexuals as a cure for homosexuality. It is debateable who would have represented an enlightened scientific position more convincingly if one looks at their responses to key issues at the time: Often Moll was — prematurely and unread — labelled as a reactionary, even though he had commented on these issues very early and usually in a fairly differentiated manner, indeed often more independently and far-sightedly than Hirschfeld.
In , for example, Moll published his work on medical ethics — see also the paper by Andreas-Holger Maehle in this issue. The publication was initiated by the scandals caused by human experimentation at the time. He criticised such behaviour and also appealed to doctors to stop the vain fighting for priorities. He urged for self-constraint, as well as the appreciation of achievements in other nations. Animals should be treated as carefully as possible during experiments.