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19 October 2023

Ernst Burchard (1876-1920) doctor and sexologist

Part I: life

Part II: Lexikon

Part III: history of cis words

Ernst Burchard was born in Heilsberg, then in Germany, but now Powiat Lidzbarski in Poland. His father was a doctor, but apparently he was raised by foster parents in Gumbinnen, Danzig and Insterburg. He studied medicine in Tübingen, Würzburg and Kiel. His dissertation, submitted in Kiel in 1900, dealt with some cases of transient glycosuria. He then opened a practice in Berlin as a general practitioner and neurologist.

Being himself gay, he inevitably came into contact with Magnus Hirschfeld, and was one of the co-founders of the Wissenschaftlich-humanitäres Komitee, WhK ( Scientific-Humanitarian Committee) in May 1897.

In 1904, two young gay men, Karl Feigl and the writer Kurt Münzer attempted to blackmail Burchard and Hirschfeld. Burchard filed a complaint, and testified as an expert witness. He declared both men to be mentally defective, and he described Feigl thus: “The homosexually inclined young man had a strongly feminine character and also showed the characteristics of gossip, intrigue, and lack of judgment and criticism, which some women possess". Feigl only was sent to prison: Münzer later became a well-known writer. 

Burchard published a pamphlet Erpresserprostitution(=Blackmailer Prostitution).

Burchard frequently appeared for the defense together with Hirschfeld as a court expert in trials of gay men charged under § 175 of the penal code, which made gay sex a crime.

Burchard left

In 1911, a year after the publication of Die Transvestiten, Hirschfeld was attempting to get other sexologists to use the new term, Transvestiten, that he had adapted from French usage. To this end he invited several colleagues and a few trans women to meet in his flat in October 1911. Burchard was of course one of the colleagues. He and Hirschfeld co-wrote some papers to widen the awareness that it was possible to obtain a Transvestitenschein.

In 1912 Burchard supported Hirschfeld in writing reports to enable the obtaining of Transvestitenscheins and/or approved name changes for Berthold Buttgereit, Louis Sch. and Emilie Kellner.

Burhard published three books: on sexual infantilism, on the psychology of self-accusation, and a lexicon of sexology.

After the outbreak of war in 1914, Burchard gave a lecture to the Ärztliche Gesellschaft für Sexualwissenschaft (Medical Society for Sexual Science) on 18 December, which he then repeated at the WhK. He described how trans women reacted when conscripted as men, and the impact on their mental condition.

Due to the anchoring of the bodily transformation tendency in the soul, however, the feeling of the impossibility of military service still seems to be particularly strong among transvestites. For many it is not in the least fear of danger or strain, but merely the feeling of complete unsuitability for a continued masculine way of life. For example, I know of transvestites who went to the district command in their female clothes and declared quite seriously that they would like to go into the field as a nurse or market-servant, but that they would never live in the barracks as a man among men. In such cases, of course, the doctor's judgement as to the military unfitness at hand cannot be in doubt. (Burchard 1914/1915, p. 376)

He emphasised that this was not shirking and that many trans women were quite willing to enlist as nurses or in food services.

Burchard was a poet, and published poems in gay publications. He was also active in the Bund für Menschenrechte (League for Human Rights).

He had resigned from the board of the WhK on December 14, 1908, due to illness. He was to give a series of lectures on "The Cultural Significance of the Mentally Abnormal" at the newly founded Institut für Sexualwissenschaft from 1919. His early death, however, was the reason that it took place with only one event. He was only 44.

Burchard’s publications:

  • Erpresserprostitution. Kampf-Verlag, Berlin, 1905.
  • with Magnus Hirschfeld. „Zwei Gutachten über Beziehungen homosexueller Frauen“. Zeitschrift für Kriminalanthropologie 50, 1912: 49-61.
  • with Magnus Hirschfeld. „Zur Kasuistik des Verkleidungstriebs“. Ärztliche Sachverständigen-Zeitung, 18, 23, 1912: 477-9.
  • with Magnus Hirschfeld. „Spermasekretion au seiner weiblichen Harnröhre“. Ein Mann mit vollkommen weiblichen äußeren Genitalien. Deutsche medizinische Wochenschrift, 37, 1912: 2425-8,
  • with Magnus Hirchfeld. „Ein Fall von Transvestitismus bei musikalischem Genie“. Neurologisches Centralblatt,, 52, 1913:946-950.
  • Der sexuelle Infantilismus (Juristisch-Psychiatrische Grenzfragen; Bd. 9, Heft 5). Verlag Marhold, Halle/Saale 1913 (zusammen mit Magnus Hirschfeld).
  • Zur Psychologie der Selbstbezichtigung. Adler-Verlag, Berlin 1913 (Beiträge zur forensischen Medizin).
  • Lexikon des gesamten Sexuallebens. Adler-Verlag, Berlin 1914.
  • „Sexuelle Fragen zur Kriegszeit“ Zeitschrift für Sexualwissenschaft, 1, 10, 1914/15: 372-380,
  • „Weibliche Soldaten“, In: Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung, XXV. Jahrgang, 6. August 1916, Nr. 32, S. 477.


  • Bernd-Ulrich Hergemöller. Mann für Mann : biographisches Lexikon zur Geschichte von Freundesliebe und mannmännlicher Sexualität im deutschen Sprachraum. Hamburg: MännerschwarmSkript, 1998: under “Burchard, Ernst”, “Feigl, Karl” and „Münzer, Kurt“.
  • Rainer Herrn. Schnittmuster des Geschlechts: Transvestitismus und Transsexualität in der frühen Sexualwissenschaft. Giessen: Psychosozial-Verlag, 2005: 73, 79, 85, 88-90, 91-2, 96-7, 99, 118, 119, 129, 137n18.
  • „Ernst Burchard, Dr. med., Arzt“. Magnus-Hirschfeld-Gesellschaft e.V. Online.


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