Pseudonym of Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail, exponent of Spiritism; b. Lyons, France, Oct. 3, 1804; d. Paris, March 31, 1869. He was the son of the lawyer Jean Baptiste Antoine Rivail and began his studies in Lyons and completed them in Yverdun, Switzerland, in the famous institute of pestalozzi, with whom he became a collaborator. Kardec received a bachelor's degree in sciences and letters, became a fine linguist, and early devoted himself to his duties as a teacher. Already in 1828 he began to publish didactic works of arithmetic, geometry, grammar, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and physiology. In 1832 he married Amelia Boudet.
Early in his youth he dedicated himself with enthusiasm to mesmeric magnetism and hypnotism, applying magnetic passes to the sick, from which activity arose his reputation of also being a doctor. In December 1854 he became interested in the phenomenon of the dancing table, a careful observation of which led him to discover two important peculiarities, impossible, he then thought, to be explained by the blind force of magnetism: (1) the table denoted intelligence and, therefore, the cause of the movements must be intelligent; (2) this intelligence was autonomous, independent of the persons who placed their hands on the table, and, therefore, must originate from a cause intelligent, different, and invisible. For this reason he concluded: (1) that neither animal magnetism by itself, nor the presences of persons, could be sufficient and adequate causes of the intelligent gyrations of the table; and (2) that the other extracorporeal intelligence, present and engaging interest, though invisible, must be a spirit. Thus arose the idea of spiritism, a neologism created by Kardec to indicate the perceptive and provocative communicability with the spirits (souls of the dead). From this point he dedicated himself with extraordinary vigor and persistence to the evocation and consultation of the spirits, because it seemed to him that in this way he was able to aid others and to definitely resolve the moral and religious problems of humanity.
On April 18, 1857, the first edition of Le livre des esprits contenant les principes de la doctrine spirite appeared in the form of 1018 questions (formulated by him) and answers (supposedly "according to the instructions given by the superior spirits with the confluence of diverse mediums"). With that book arose the codified Spiritism of a religious character that still exists today (see brazil). In 1861 he published another fundamental work for the spiritual movement, the book of mediums (or the "guide of evocators"). In 1864 appeared the Gospel according to Spiritism; in 1865, a book about heaven and hell; and in 1868, one about miracles and prophecies. Other works were published after his death. In 1857 he initiated the Revue Spirite, and in 1858 he founded the Society of Spiritual Studies. By the decree of the Holy Office of April 20, 1864, all his works were prohibited. Every movement initiated by Kardec was characterized by necromancy and reincarnation.