Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault

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Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault

Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault[1] (1823, Favières, Meurthe-et-Moselle – 18 February 1904, Nancy) was a French physician universally acknowledged as the founder of the famous school that became known as the "Nancy School", or the "Suggestion School" (in order to distinguish it from the Charcot and Salpêtrière Hospital-centred "Paris School", or "Hysteria School") and he is considered by many to be the father of modern hypnotherapy.

The Nancy school held that hypnosis was a normal phenomenon induced by suggestion, in contrast to the earlier schools of thought, which considered hypnotic trances as manifestations of magnetism, hysteria or psycho-physiological phenomenon.

Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault was born in Favières, a small town in the Lorraine region of France, on 16 September 1823. He completed his medical degree at the University of Strasbourg in 1850 at the age of 26. He then established a practice in the village of Pont-Saint-Vincent, near the town of Nancy.

The Nancy School[edit]

Later his institution became the central point for what became known as the Nancy School with the collaboration of Dr. Hippolyte Bernheim, a renowned professor at the Medical School in Nancy.


Liébeault was indirectly influenced by the ideas of Abbé Faria (1746-1819), Alexandre Jacques François Bertrand (1795-1831).

He was strongly influenced by the ideas of Scottish surgeon James Braid (1795-1860), having been introduced to Braid and his work through the agency of his friendship with Braid's principal French disciple, Étienne Eugène Azam (1822-1899) of Bordeaux.[2]


His first book, "Le sommeil et les états analogues, considérés surtout du point de vue de l'action du moral sur le physique" (Sleep and its analogous states considered from the perspective of the action of the mind upon the body) was published in 1866. It was republished in almost the same form in 1889 as "Le sommeil provoqué et les états analogues" (Induced Sleep and States Analogous to It).[3]

Death and legacy[edit]

He died on February 18, 1904 at the age of 80.

In their turn, Sigmund Freud and Émile Coué came to the Nancy School, and were influenced by Liébeault.

Whilst Coué studied quite extensively with Liébeault (and Bernheim) at Nancy, over an extended period of time, Freud simply visited Nancy and observed Bernheim at his work.[4]

Otto Georg Wetterstrand (1845-1907) was also greatly influenced by Liébeault.[5]


  1. ^ Whilst it is quite common to find his family name mis-spelt as either Liébault or Liebault in the non-French language (especially English) literature, his family name was most definitely spelt Liébeault.
  2. ^ According to a lengthy report (dated 16 December 1859), "Hypnotism — Important Medical Discovery" from the Paris correspondent of the New York Herald, in the Thursday, 5 January, 1860 edition of the Herald (p.5), Azam was also responsible for introducing Braid's techniques to Paul Broca (1824–1880). Broca subsequently performed a number of operations using Braid's hypnotic techniques (i.e., rather than using Mesmerism like Esdaile) for anaesthesia, and the eminent French surgeon, Velpeau was so impressed that he read a paper on Broca's experiments to the French Academy of Sciences on Broca's behalf.
  3. ^ An extensively annotated English translation of the 1889 version of the text appears at Carrer, (2002), pp.24-275.
  4. ^ According to Baudouin and Lestchinsky (1924, p.153) — Baudouin was also a significant "Nancy School" figure — Freud, “who was to be the leader of the new school [of psychoanalysis], had worked at the Salpêtrière under Charcot [and] had witnessed some of Bernheim’s experiments at Nancy” (p.153, emphasis added).
  5. ^ Bjerre, 1920, pp.43-82. Wetterstrand was the author of the text Der Hypnotismus und seine Anwendung in der praktischen Medicin first published in 1891. A translation of this work is: Wetterstrand, O.G. (Petersen, H.G. trans.), Hypnotism and its Application to Practical Medicine. Authorized Translation (from the German Edition); Together with Medical Letters on Hypno-Suggestion, etc. by Henrik G. Petersen, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, (New York), 1897.


  • Anon, "Hypnotism — Important Medical Discovery", The New York Herald, (Thursday, 5 January 1860), p.5, col B.
  • Baudouin, C. & Lestchinsky, A. (trans. Paul, E. & Paul, C.), The Inner Discipline, George Allen & Unwin, (London), 1924.
  • Bjerre, P., "Wetterstrand and the Nancy School", pp. 43-82 in Bjerre, P. (Barrow, E.N. trans.), The History and Practice of Psychoanalysis, Richard G. Badger, (Toronto), 1920.
  • Carrer, L., Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault: The Hypnological Legacy of a Secular Saint,, (College Station), 2002.
  • Alexandre Klein, "Et Nancy devint la capitale de l'hypnose"
  • Alexandre Klein,« Nouveau regard sur l’Ecole hypnologique de Nancy à partir d’archives inédites », Le Pays Lorrain, 2010/4, p. 337-348.
  • Alexandre Klein,« “Lire le corps pour percer l’âme” : outils et appareils à l’aube de la psychologie scientifique à Nancy », Guignard, L., Raggi, P., Thévenin, E., (dir.), 2011, Corps et machines à l’âge industriel, Rennes, PUR, p. 41-54.

External links[edit]