Morichau-Beauchant, Pierre Ernest René (1873-1952)

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Pierre Morichau-Beauchant, a French physician and professor at the Poitiers school of medicine, was born in Vivonne, France on November 1, 1873, and died in Poitiers in 1952. He was the first Frenchman to join the Freudian movement, in 1910.

His father, Joseph Eugène Beauchant, was a notary in Vivonne and his mother, née Berthe Brillouin, the only child of an apothecary in the Vendée. As a result of bad business deals his father moved to Paris. Pierre was a gifted child and had excellent academic results in the Collège Stanislas (winner of the Concours Général for French lycées) and later in the medical faculty. He took the Paris internship examination in 1899, being forced by necessity to also give Latin and Greek lessons. On completing his military service in 1902, he joined Le Sillon (The Furrow), a Christian Democratic movement, founded that year and managed by Marc Sangnier (1873-1950).

In 1903, he was appointed assistant commissioner for hospitals and assistant professor in the Poitiers medical school. In 1904, he marriedÉdith Rambaud, a pharmacist's daughter and a pharmacy intern in Paris. They had five children and their three sons also became doctors and professors of medicine. He was mobilized during the First World War, and was made a Knight of the Legion of Honor in 1918. He was appointed professor of clinical medicine in 1919 but kept his private practice and, upon retiring in 1941, he continued as an honorary consulting professor of geriatric medicine in the Dalesmes hospital until 1951.

As a highly cultured man, a good German scholar, and free of prejudice, he read The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a), Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905d), and soon began to read the Viennese analytic reviews. He tested the Freudian method and wrote to Freud in 1910, introducing himself as a disciple: "This letter will show you that you also have disciples in France who follow your work with passion." In the same year he wrote the first psychoanalytic article to be published in France: L'Inconscient et la défense de l'individu (The unconscious and the individual's defense), published in the social review L'Effort (The effort), founded by the writer Jean-Richard Bloch, who put him in charge of the Psychology and Psychiatry section. Two further articles appeared under his name in this review, La défense de l'espèce dans l'hérédité (The defense of the species in heredity) and Le déterminisme héréditaire et la liberté humaine (Hereditary determinism and human freedom), to be followed by the better known Le rapport affectif dans la cure des psycho-névroses (The affective relationship in curing psycho-neuroses), published in 1911 in the Gazette des hôpitaux (The hospital gazette).

Freud noted his importance, seeing "Mr Beauchant, the intelligent Frenchman" as "a good sign" and "solid support" for acceptance of his method in France. He sent Angélo Hesnard to him, requesting help and clarification with his thesis. Ernest Jones recognized that he had "a good grasp" of Freud's theories.

In 1912, he was elected a member of the Zurich Psychoanalytic Association and became an occasional collaborator in the Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse and the Jahrbuch. But he played no part in the birth of the French psychoanalytic movement, nor in any of its events. He no doubt moved away from Freud and psychoanalysis on the occasion of the break with Jung. His name does not appear in psychoanalytic literature or correspondence after 1914, when Freud mentioned him in "On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement" (1914d).

We are particularly indebted to him for his analytical observations of children, as in L'instinct sexuel avant la puberté (The sexual instinct before puberty), one of the first works on the nostalgia of soldiers, work on infectious pathology, and especially gastroenterology in which he discusses the hypothesis of psychic causality and recommends psychotherapeutic treatment.

Michelle Moreau Ricaud

See also: France.


Morichau-Beauchant, Pierre. (1910) L'inconscient et la défense de la vie. L'Effort,1.

. (1911). Le rapport affectif dans la cure des psychonévroses. Gazette hôpitaux, 84 (14), 1845-1849.

. (1912). Homosexualität und paranoia. Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse, 2, 174-176.

. (1912). Les troubles de l'instinct sexuel chez les épileptiques. Journal médical français, 6 (4), 155-161.

. (1912). L'instinct sexuel avant la puberté. Journal médical français, 6 (5), 375-382.

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Morichau-Beauchant, Pierre Ernest René (1873-1952)

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