Ey, Henri (1900-1977)

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EY, HENRI (1900-1977)

Henri Ey, a French psychiatrist and philosopher, was born on August 10, 1900, and died on November 9, 1977, in Banyuls-dels-Aspres, in the Pyrénées-Orientales region of France. After completing his secondary education in Sorège, Ey began studying medicine in Toulouse. He was accepted as an intern at the Asiles de la Seine in 1925 and completed his studies in Paris, where he also studied philosophy at the Sorbonne and attended classes by Pierre Janet at the Collège de France. During this period he became friendly with several other interns, in particular, Jacques Lacan, Pierre Mâle, and Julien Rouart.

In 1931, while working at the Clinique des maladies mentales (Mental Health Clinic) at Sainte-Anne Hospital, Ey, a senior psychiatrist under Professor Henri Claude, met the first French psychoanalysts invited to practice there: René Laforgue, René Allendy, and Éduouard Pichon. These men were among the founders of the Société psychanalytique de Paris (Paris Psychoanalytic Society). Together with Eugène Minkowski, they were among the first contributors to the jounnal L'évolution psychiatrique (Psychiatric evolution), launched in 1925 and published since then by the group of the same name that it gave birth to. The reference to L'évolution créatrice (Creative Evolution) by Henri Bergson, who critiqued Freud's first publications from a philosophical point of view, helps explain the genealogy of ideas. During the war and occupation L'évolution psychiatrique suspended activity, but afterward Ey succeeded Minkowski as manager and editor-in-chief of the journal.

Ey spent most of his career working in hospitals. In 1931 he was appointed as doctor of psychiatry, his first and only position, at Bonneval Psychiatric Hospital (today the Henri Ey Hospital), where he remained until his retirement in 1970. The only interruption occurred when he was mobilized as an army doctor during the war, from 1939 to 1940, and at liberation.

Ey's theoretical work was devoted to applying to the study of mental disorders the ideas of the English neurologist Hughlings Jackson, who was himself inspired by the organicism of the philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820-1903). In organicism (not to be confused with "organicism" in the medical sense), psychic life is characterized by its hierarchical organization, the development of individual functions, their ontogenesis (which reflects the order of their appearance among the species), and phylogenesis. This approach influenced the neurological work of Sigmund Freud, whose On Aphasia: A Critical Study (1953) is nothing more than the application of Jackson's principles to aphasia. In 1938 Ey published, together with Julien Rouart, the Essai d'application des principes de Jacksonà une conception dynamique de la neuropsychiatrie (The application of Jackson's principles to a dynamic conception of neuropsychiatry), though Rouart distanced himself from the ideas expressed in the monograph when it was reissued in 1975.

One of Ey's last psychoanalytic essays to appear before the four years of silence that ensued under the occupation was his "Réflexions sur la valeur scientifique et morale de la psychanalyse" (Reflections on the scientific and moral value of pyschoanalysis; 1939). The essay was a response to ideas that Roland Dalbiez had expressed in 1936 in La méthode psychanalytique et la doctrine freudienne (Psychoanalytic method and Freudian theory). Ey's article was a brilliant measured attack against psychoanalysis as it existed in France, and the conclusion provides a clear overview of a position he never wavered from: "By attempting to reduce psychoanalysis to its exact limits and by showing that it operates within a zone of indeterminacy greater than Mr. Dalbiez appears to be aware of, we have attempted to be somewhat more relaxed in our criticism of the ideology that has crystallized around a major discoveryFreud's exploration of the unconscious." Throughout his life Ey expressed the same reservations, but these reservations did not prevent him from organizing meetings and discussions that were among the most exhilarating in the history of psychoanalysis in France.

Ey organized a number of famous conferences at Bonneval. Two of the best known are the third, "Le problème de la psychogenèse des névroses et des psychoses" (The problem of the psychogenesis of neuroses and psychoses; 1946), with contributions from Jacques Lacan, who discussed the organodynamism of his friend Julien Rouart, and the sixth, "L'inconscient" (The unconscious; 1960), the text of which was published in 1966 after considerable revision.

Ey had little doubt that psychoanalysis was part of the medical science of psychiatry. It was with this in mind that he organized the first Congrès mondial de psychiatrie (World Congress of Psychiatry), which was chaired by Jean Delay in Paris in 1950. The participants included several of leading names in psychoanalysis at the time: Franz G. Alexander, Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, Jacques Lacan. The congress was so successful that the organizing association transformed itself into the World Psychiatric Association, whose first executive secretary, until 1966, was Ey.

In 1955 Ey edited the first edition of the Traité de psychiatrie (Treatise on psychiatry) in the Encyclopédiemédico-chirurgicale (Medical-surgical encyclopedia). He assigned several chapters to some of the best known analysts of the time, especially those working on neuroses and psychoanalytic theory and practice. Jacques Lacan wrote the chapter "Variantes de la cure-type" (Treatment alternatives).

In 1960 Ey published, with Paul Bernard and Charles Brisset, the Manuel de psychiatrie (Manual of psychiatry), which went through six French editions and numerous translations. The manual introduced medical doctors to an approach to psychiatry that transcended the mechanical, linear model that arose out of medical organicism at the end of the nineteenth century. Ey strongly opposed abandoning the ethical dimension of medicine in the treatment of mental patients, which, in his view, was happening in the antipsychiatric movement and could be found as well in the misuse of psychiatry for purposes of political repression.

At the end of his professional life, Ey returned to his home in Catalonia, France, but remained active. There he wrote the Traité des hallucinations (Treatise on hallucinations; 1973), in which he devotes an important chapter to the psychodynamic study of hallucinations and, in an organodynamic approach to psychosis, introduces the concept of the "psychic body."

Jean GarrabÉ

See also: Colloque sur l'inconscient; Dalbiez, Roland; France;Évolution psychiatrique (L'-) ; Ontogenesis; Phenomenology and psychoanalysis; Pscyhogenesis/organogenesis.


Bonnafé, Lucien; Ey, Henri; Follin, Sven; Lacan, Jacques; and Rouart, Julien. (1950). Le problème de la psychogenèse des névroses et des psychoses. Paris: Desclée de Brouwer.

Ey, Henri. (1939). Réflexions sur la valeur scientifique et morale de la psychanalyse: à propos de la thèse de Roland Dalbiez. Encéphale, 34 (4), 189-220.

. (1966). L'inconscient: VIe colloque de Bonneval, 1960. Paris: Desclée de Brouwer.

. (1973). Traité des hallucinations. Paris: Masson.

. (1975). Des idées de Jacksonà un modèle organodynamique en psychiatrie. Toulouse, France: Privat.

Ey, Henri; Bernard, Paul; and Brisset, Charles. (1960). Manuel de psychiatrie. Paris: Masson.

Ey, Henri, and Rouart, Julien. (1938). Essai d'application des principes de Jackson à une conception dynamique de la neuropsychiatrie. Paris: Doin.

Freud, Sigmund. (1953). On aphasia: A critical study (E. Stengel, Trans.). New York: International Universities Press. (Original work published 1891)