Meyerson, Ignace (1888-1983)

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MEYERSON, IGNACE (1888-1983)

Ignace Meyerson, a French physician and psychologist, was born in Poland on February 27, 1888, and died in Paris on November 17, 1983.

Having been active in the Russian-Polish insurrection of 1905, he arrived in Paris in 1906 and met up with his uncle,Émile Meyerson, a philosopher and historian of science. From 1907 to 1920 he studied medicine, the natural sciences, philosophy, and sociology. During World War I he replaced Henri Wallon, who was serving at the front, under Chaslin and Nageotte at the Salpêtrière. He got to know Pierre Janet and Georges Dumas and became Dumas's assistant in the psychology laboratory of the Saint Anne asylum.

At the request of Dumas and publisher, Félix Alcan he started to translate the Traumdeutung (Freud, 1900a, The Interpretation of Dreams) in 1922. As odd as it is that Freud allowed his book of dreams to be translated by someone totally unknown, and a student of the man whom he considered to be his most formidable enemy in France, the attraction of being published by Alcan, the most prestigious publisher of academic works, must have had a determining influence.

In spite of his lack of enthusiasm (he never admired psychoanalysis), Meyerson accepted the difficult task, which nevertheless ensured him a comfortable retirement as a result of the gilt-edged contract he negotiated with Alcan (ten percent of the rights). La Science des rêves (The Science of Dreams) appeared in 1926. It was not republished until 1953, and 1967 saw a new translation published by the Presses Universitaires de France, revised by Denise Berger and entitled L'Inter-prétation des rêves (The interpretation of dreams).

In 1947 Meyerson presented his PhD thesis, his main written work: Les Fonctions psychologiques et les œuvres (Psychological functions and works). In it he presents the bases of his historical psychology as applied to the individual. He then applied for the Sorbonne chair of general psychology, left vacant by Paul Guillaume, but Daniel Lagache was appointed and thus gave a much more clinical orientation to French psychology.

Meyerson died at the age of ninety-five, having abandoned his teaching post in section six of theÉcole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS, College of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences) only a few months earlier. Although he is not credited with having had much influence, Meyerson did have a long-lasting and profound effect on French psychology. For thirty years he was the editor of Janet's and Dumas's Journal de psychologie normale et pathologique (Journal of Normal and Pathological Psychology), making it one of the great forums of intellectual expression between the two world wars. He also founded comparative historical psychology in theÉcole Pratique des HautesÉtudes (Practical College of Higher Studies).

Annick Ohayon

See also: France; Wish/yearning.


Meyerson, Ignace. (1948). Les fonctions psychologiques et les œuvres, thèse pour le doctorat ès-lettres présentée à la faculté des lettres de Paris, 1947. Paris: Vrin.

. (1987).Écrits 1920-1983. Pour une psychologie historique. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Mijolla, Alain de. (1991). L'édition en français des "Œuvres" de Freud avant 1940. Autour de quelques documents nouveaux. Revue internationale d'histoire de la psychanalyse, 4, 209-270.

Vermès, Geneviève. (1992). Un rédacteur pour le "Journal de psychologie normale et pathologique": Ignace Meyer-son, XIe Meeting annuel de Cheiron, Madrid, septembre 1991. Revista historia de la Psicologia, 2, 353-359.

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Meyerson, Ignace (1888-1983)

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