Minkowska-Brokman, Françoise (1882-1950)

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Françoise Minkowska-Brokman, a physician and psychiatrist, was born on January 22, 1882, and died in Paris on September 15, 1950.

From a Polish Jewish family, she was prevented by the czarist régime from studying medicine within the Russian empire, as was her future husband, Eugène Minkowski. She studied under Eugen Bleuler in the Burghözli asylum in Zürich, and then she went to Kazan in 1909 to acquire a diploma that would allow her to work in Russia at the same time as Eugène Minkowski, whom she married on her return.

In Zürich she also met Hermann Rorschach, another of Bleuler's students, who also considered moving to Russia because of his marriage to Olga Stempelin. Minkowska was therefore familiar with the ideas of the inventor of the famous Rorschach test well before the publication of his Psychodiagnostics in 1921.

Although she had lived in France for several years, after World War I her family responsibilities prevented her from resuming her studies in order to practice medicine there. Her research work in Paris was therefore conducted independently of any official organization. In 1925 she contributed to the collective publication L'Évolution psychiatrique with Les troubles essentiels de la schizophrénie dans leurs rapports avec les données de psychologie et de la biologie moderne (The relationship between essential schizophrenic disorders and modern psychology and biology), and again in 1927 with Le problème de la constitution examinéeà la lumière des recherches généalogiques et son rôle théorique et pratique (The problem of the constitution examined in the light of genealogical research and its theoretical and practical role). She was referring to Kretschmer's morphopsychological distinction (in Körperbau und Charakter, [Physique and character; 1921]) between schizoid and cycloid. In the same vein, she described a third type of constitution or personality structure as epileptoid or, to be more precise, glischroid, a term chosen byÉdouard Pichon. Having read Jaspers's study of Van Gogh, she took an interest in the painter's life and work and came to the conclusion that glischroid epilepsy was the psychopathological register that best corresponded to the painter's psychiatric experiences.

Minkowska's untimely death prevented her from completing a study of the Rorschach test, but a collection of her papers was published posthumously in 1956. Seven of them had been published between 1940 and 1950 in Annales médico-psychologiques, L'Évolution psychiatrique and Le Journal de psychiatrie infantile. Study number 2, dating from 1943, was banned in France but made its way clandestinely to be published in Rorschachiana in 1945. The remaining two studies have never been published. They were: Le Rorschach en tant que "Formdeutungsversuch" (The Rorschach as an attempt to interpret form; Françoise Minkowska preferred this expression to "test"), presented on the occasion of the First International Rorschach conference in Zürich in 1949, and a particularly moving text: the paper she gave on March 20, 1950, written in reaction to a posthumous article by Rorschach reviewing a paper given to the Swiss Society for Psychoanalysis in March, 1922. Her own death on September 15, 1950, did not allow her to review it for publication.

The funeral oration in honor of Minkowska was delivered in the name of L'Évolution psychiatrique by Jacques Lacan.

Jean GarrabÉ

See also: Minkowski, Eugene; Schizophrenia.


Minkowska, Françoise. (1956). Le Rorschach.Á la recherche du monde des formes. Paris: Desclée de Brouwer.

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Minkowska-Brokman, Françoise (1882-1950)

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