Minkowski, Eugène (1885-1972)

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Eugène Minkowski, a psychiatrist and philosopher, was born on April 17, 1885, in Saint Petersburg and died on September 15, 1972, in Paris.

Born into a Jewish family from Lithuania, he began his medical studies in Warsaw but, because of political repression from the czarist government, was forced to complete his education in Munich, where he obtained his degree in 1909. To practice in Russia, he sat for another degree in Kazan, where he met Françoise Brokman, whom he married when he returned to Western Europe. Upon his return to Munich, this time to study philosophy, he found himself caught up in the First World War. He initially sought refuge in Zurich, and worked with Eugen Bleuler at the Burghölzli Asylum. He then joined the French army, where he served as a military doctor on the battlefield.

As a result of volunteering for service, Minkowski was made a French national and settled in Paris after the war, where he spent the greater part of his life. He worked as a consultant at the Rothschild Hospital and the Henri-Rousselle Pavilion at Sainte-Anne's Hospital.

In 1926 Minkowski defended his dissertation, "La notion de perte de contact avec la réalité et ses applications en psychopathologie," based on the concept of élan vital introduced by Bergson in Creative Evolution (1907). He associated this loss ofélan vital with autism, as Bleuler referred to autoeroticism, a fundamental symptom of the schizophrenic psychoses (1911). It was through Bergson's vision that French psychiatrists approached Bleuler's work, using the new tools of psychoanalysis to revise the concept of dementia praecox constructed by Emil Kraepelin at the end of the nineteenth century.

In 1923 Minkowski published an article that clearly indicated his interest in phenomenology, "Étude psychologique et analyse phénoménologique d'un cas de mélancolie schizophrénique." He also contributed articles to the two collections published as L'Évolution psychiatrique : "La genèse de la notion de schizophrénie et ses caractères essentiels" (1925) and "De la rêverie morbide au délire d'influence" (1927). In 1925 Minkowski, together with the analysts who went on to create the Société psychanalytique de Paris (Paris Psychoanalytic Society) the following year, helped found the organization L'Évolution psychiatrique. Minkowski was secretary general of the organization until the Second World War, when the society interrupted its activities. During this period Minkowski made L'Évolution psychiatrique a place where French psychiatrists would have access to new information from philosophy and science that contributed to the evolution of their discipline. Minkowski himself barely escaped deportation during the Occupation.

Minkowski, together with Ludwig Binswanger, is considered the creator of phenomenological psychiatry. Le Temps vécu, études phénoménologiques et psychopathologiques (1933) describes the spatialization of being, which compensates for the feeling of time that is no longer experienced in schizophrenia. In April 1938, Minkowski published, in the Annales médicopsychologiques, "Á propos de l'hygiène mentale: Quelques réflexions," where he protested against the law requiring the sterilization of mentally ill patients with hereditary diseases that was promulgated in Nazi Germany as a form of mental hygiene.

In 1956, L'Évolution psychiatrique published a volume dedicated to Eugène Minkowski, with contributions from more than forty authors. Minkowski devoted the end of his life to writing Traité de psychopathologie (1966/1999), an important synthesis of his life's work.

Jean GarrabÉ

See also: Colloque sur l'inconscient;Évolution psychatrique, L' ; Ey, Henri; France; Minkowska-Brokman, Fran-çoise; Mythomania; Phenomenology and psychoanalysis; Schizophrenia.


Minkowski, Eugène. (1923)Étude psychologique et analyse phénoménologique d'un cas de mélancolie schizophrénique. Journal de psychologie normale et pathologique, 20, 543-558.

. (1927). La Schizophrénie. Paris: Payot.

. (1933). Le Temps vécu.Études phénoménologiques et psychopathologiques. Paris: Payot.

. (1999). Traité de psychopathologie. Paris: Le Plessis-Robinson. (Original work published 1966)

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Minkowski, Eugène (1885-1972)

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