Lagache, Daniel (1903-1972)

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LAGACHE, DANIEL (1903-1972)

French physician, psychoanalyst, and professor at the Sorbonne, Daniel Lagache was born on December 3, 1903, in Paris, where he died on December 3, 1972.

An officer in the Legion of Honor, Lagache was recipient of an honorary doctorate from the University of Montreal and was a laureate of the Institut de France and Faculty of Medicine, Paris.

At age twelve, Lagache was strongly affected by the death of his father, a lawyer with the appeals court in Paris. Although deeply loved by his father, he felt that his mother preferred his youngest brother and consequently recalled his childhood as "bittersweet." With excellent grades at the Lycée Condorcet, he entered the École Normale Supérieure in 1924. Fascinating case presentations by famous psychologist Georges Dumas at Sainte-Anne's hospital motivated Lagache to pursue psychoanalysis. With fellow students Raymond Aron, Paul Nizan, and Jean-Paul Sartre, Lagache began a course in medicine, and became the only one among them to actually complete studies in medicine and philosophy. After passing his agrégation in philosophy in 1928, Lagache received his medical degree in 1934, worked in psychiatric hospitals for several years, and in 1937 served as chief physician in the clinic directed by Henri Claude, the eminent psychiatrist and neurologist. He was appointed professor of psychology at the University of Strasbourg, succeeding Charles Blondel, in 1937.

From 1933 to 1936, Lagache underwent a training analysis with Rudolph Loewenstein, one of the founders of Paris Psychoanalytic Society (SPP). Lagache's perfect understanding of German allowed him to study Freud's works in the original as well as to read the German phenomenologists and psychopathologists. In 1937 his communication, "Deuil, mélancolie, manie" (Mourning, melancholia and mania) brought him full membership in the SPP. In 1938, at the Fifteenth International Psychoanalytic Congress in Paris, he offered his "Contributionà l'étude des idées d'infidélité homosexuelle dans la jalousie" (Contribution to the study of the ideas of homosexual infidelity in jealousy). During the war, expertise in forensic medicine and psychiatry led him to work in criminology. He made use of observations in cases of homicidal jealousy, and data he gathered on pathological jealousy would constitute the core of the two theses of his doctorate.

During the war, Lagache was initially an officer in the department of military health before being imprisoned; he subsequently escaped to become active in the Resistance and to rejoin the faculty of the University of Strasbourg, which had been relocated to Clermont-Ferrand, near Vichy. Receiving his doctorate in letters at the University of Paris in 1946, he obtained the chair of psychology at the Sorbonne in 1947, and in 1955, the chair of psychopathology. From 1946 to 1966 he also served as a member of the CNRS consultative assembly. In 1947 he founded and directed the collection "Bibliothèque de psychanalyse et de psychologie clinique" (Library of Psychoanalysis and Clinical Psychology, later called simply "Bibliothèque de la psychanalyse"), published by the Presses Universitaires de France. Lagache also was influential in the 1967 publication of The Language of Psycho-Analysis by Jean Laplanche and Jean-Bertrand Pontalis, a landmark in the history of psychoanalysis in France.

With Jacques Lacan, in 1953 Lagache founded the Societé française de psychanalyse (SFP), which over the next eight years published the remarkable journal La Psychanalyse. After this group dissolved, in 1964 Lagache became co-founder and first president of the Association psychanalytique de France (APF), which was recognized in 1965 by the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA). In 1968, a serious heart condition forced him to retire from official functions and to cut back his psychoanalytic practice.

Lagache's work from 1932 to 1968 includes, in addition to many books, over 170 articles and manuscripts, which were edited and published in six volumes by Eva Rosenblum. His masterpiece was La jalousie amoureuse (Jealousy; 1947); Le travail du deuil (The work of mourning; 1938) and Le deuil pathologique (Pathological mourning; 1956), include Freud and became outstanding titles of reference. His last manuscript, incomplete at his death, was La folle du logis: La psychanalyse comme science exacte (The madwoman in the attic: Psychoanalysis as an exact science; 1964). Lagache's language is limpid, concise, and simple.

Lagache's scientific authority, together with his dynamism and powers to convince, enabled him to pioneer the introduction of psychoanalysis into the French university system in 1937. His humanist orientation, scientific honesty, and unimpeachable integrity overcame the resistance of an academic world paralyzed by the fear of an upheaval in education due to Freudian ideas. As an accurate theorist of Freudian concepts, Lagache also played an influential role in promoting psychoanalysis among the general public. His contribution to the "Que sais-je?" series of brief primers, Psychoanalysis (1955/1963), was translated into twelve languages and is considered a masterpiece. He understood how to underpin psychoanalytic thought with reference to clinical experience, in the twenty-first century and his lectures at the Sorbonne remain relevant today. He was responsible for publishing numerous foreign works in France and established an international network of colleagues and collaborators. Selections from his collected works have been translated into English (Lagache, 1993) and Spanish. Engaged both in the creation of psychoanalytic institutions and in the organization of international congresses, Lagache was an active participant in various internecine disputes in French psychoanalysis and, more generally, played a major role in the history of the psychoanalytic movement, both in France and abroad.

Eva Rosenblum

Work discussed: Jalousie amoureuse, La

See also: Association psychanalytique de France; Bouvet, Maurice Charles Marie Germain; Criminology and psychoanalysis; Documents et Débats ; Ego ideal; Ego ideal/ideal Ego; Fantasy (reverie); France; Heroic self, the; Language of Psychoanalysis, The ; Loewenstein, Rudolph M.; Passion; Psychanalyse, La ; Psyché, revue internationale de psychanalyse et des sciences de l'homme ; psychoanalytic splits; Repetition; Société française de psychanalyse; Société psychanalytique de Paris et Institut de psychanalyse de Paris; Sublimation; Working-off mechanisms.


Lagache, Daniel. (1947). La jalousie amoureuse: Psychologie descriptive et psychanalyse. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

. (1950). Homosexuality and jealousy. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 31 (1-2), 24-31.

. (1963). Psychoanalysis. New York: Walker. (Original work published 1955)

. (1977-1986). Oeuvres (6 vols.). Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

. (1993). The Work of Daniel Lagache: Selected Papers 1938-1964. London: Karnac Books.

Further Reading

Mijolla Alain de. (1988a). "Psychoanalysis and psychoanalysts in France between 1939 and 1945", Int Forum Psychoanalysis, 12, 136-156, 2003, Stockholm.