May 6: A Crucial Day For Aviation and Psychology

May 6

May 6 appears at face value to be just another day in the calendar. However, on this particular day, two major events happened. Those events greatly helped shape the world we live in today. How exactly did the Hindenburg disaster affect the planet and who was Sigmund Freud? Fasten your seatbelts, and let’s climb aboard the zeppelin, shall we?

“What’s a zeppelin? Is it related to Led Zeppelin?”

Well, good connection making skills there! But first, a little history lesson. In 1899, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin constructed the first, well, zeppelin. It was the largest lighter-than-air commercial airship ever built. How big, you may ask? According to, the Hindenburg zeppelin was 3 times the size of a modern Boeing 747. So basically, a giant American football measuring 245 meters (804 feet) in length, and 41 meters (135 feet) in diameter. How do you propel this gargantuan airship? Using some sort of gas that keeps it aloft, like helium, or hydrogen (like Hindenburg used). It uses the same principle as the hot-air balloon. It can’t compare to today’s planes in terms of speed, because it could reach only around 122 km/h, which is about 76 mph.

Was it popular back in the day?

May 6
How a modern zeppelin looks like

Oh yes, it was a luxurious means of transport. Reporters were flocking to the landing sites awaiting the stars who would often travel by zeppelin. The connection with the band Led Zeppelin is the story of how they got their name. One theory states that they chose the name due to a remark from Keith Moon, who said their musical project would go down “like a lead balloon.” Not happy with the sheer power of a balloon, they instead added “zeppelin”. And the Hindenburg disaster was so talked about that it sparked numerous books, articles, and pieces of media.

Speaking of the Hindenburg disaster…

Why is it so important that I decided to write about it? Well, on May 6, 1937, near Lakehurst New Jersey, the zeppelin had an engine leak which, combined with the very bad weather, caused its demise. After 63 journeys in almost 2 years, all of which from Germany to North and South America, the Hindenburg burned in 34 seconds. The zeppelin, which bore the Nazi emblem, was very popular among the global public and was a symbol of Nazi power. The gas leak wouldn’t have been an issue by itself. But it seems the landing lines charged the positively electrified ship (due to the raging storm) with negative electricity from the ground. It lit up the airship as it swung its nose upwards, turning to a ball of flame in less than a minute, killing 36 of all 97 people on board.

What it meant for the world

May 6
The moment Hindenburg caught fire

Albeit inferior to the planes of the era, it had been extremely popular. There were plans to mass-produce them. However, all were scrapped once the Hindenburg was destroyed. No one wanted to fly one anymore. Moreover, because it bore the Nazi emblem, by extension, no one wanted to fly a Nazi airship anymore. What it did for the world was that it rushed the age of the modern airplane, which we would see in World War 2, just 2 years later.

Interested in World War 2? Check out a national symbol of Italy!

Let’s talk now about the father of psychoanalysis

Have you ever heard about Sigmund Freud, the famous Austrian neurologist? I’m almost sure you did, even though you might not be familiar with his work. I admit I’ve picked up an interest in his work only after watching an episode featuring him on Epic Rap Battles of History on YouTube.

You may be wondering what did he do on May 6? I don’t know. Rather, May 6, 1856, is his birthday! Happy birthday, Mr. Sigmund! He graduated at the University of Vienna, where he studied medicine and became a respected physician. After working with a famous French neurologist called Jean-Martin Charcot, he leaned more towards psychology.

Not all mental illnesses have physiological causes

According to, Freud and his mentor Dr. Josef Breuer found interest in a patient named Bertha Pappenheim, named Anna O. in the case study. She had a nervous cough, tactile anesthesia, and paralysis. However, the pair observed that the woman had past traumatic experiences and talked to her about them. The mere discussion about the issues made the woman feel more at ease, and symptoms degraded in intensity. The talking “cure” had a calming effect on the symptoms. Freud concluded that her condition had no organic causes.

The core idea of psychoanalysis, the field that Freud pretty much invented, revolves around the unconscious mind. According to the same website, “the belief that all people possess unconscious thoughts, feelings, desires, and memories.” Dr. Sigmund Freud was one who advocated that early childhood has a large impact on an individual’s personality. He suggested that by age five, personality was largely already carved. Another core trait of psychoanalysis is that bringing the unconscious into the conscious light allows people to reach catharsis (meaning “to clean, pure”). This way, they can more easily deal with their issue.

May 6
Perhaps the most famous photo of Sigmund Freud

The Freudian slip and Oedipus complex

I’m sure it occurred to you at least once that you wanted to say something but then another word came out of your mouth, totally different from what you were desiring. Like, for example, when your biology teacher said “orgasm” instead of “organism” in class. Everyone laughed, didn’t they? Well, Freud tells us that it was our unconscious thoughts that got a hold of us for a moment. And that it was they who uttered that word, expressing what the conscious mind had repressed. It happened to me as well, and it probably happened to you that you called your girl by a different name. And then she goes into the full-detective mode, asking “Who is (insert the other feminine name)?” Congratulations on your Freudian slip!

The Oedipus complex is a bit more complicated, but it takes its name from Oedipus, the Greek mythology character. He was famous for not knowing his parents and then ending up killing his father and marrying his mother. What Freud proposes is that, during the psychosexual development of a child, they start subconsciously competing with the same-sex parent for the attention of the other-sex parent. They start desiring the other-sex parent. I highly suggest you read about the Oedipus complex and the feminine equivalent Electra Complex, formulated by Carl Jung. The psychosexual development, in a Freudian sense, involves a conflict between an individual’s primal id and ego and helps the child mature in this area.

Freud’s work would be continued and expanded by his daughter Anna Freud. Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, and Erik Erikson would also expand the field of psychoanalysis. Due to Freud, we now know more about personality, clinical and abnormal psychology, and how humans develop.

So there you have it

An airship disaster that changed the future of aviation. An Austrian neurologist who enriched the field of psychology. One happened on May 6. The other was born on May 6. The zeppelin crashed in 1937, while Freud died just 2 years later, in 1939. I find it quite poetic, honestly. One belonged to the country that would start WW2 while Freud died the same year the war started.

It makes you think about how important a simple day in the calendar actually is.


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