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Azam, Dr Eugene

Category: Healer

Eugène Azam (28th May 1822- 16th December 1899) was a Bordeaux surgeon, a professor of medicine who was interested in psychology and hypnosis.  He was in turn the assistant physician of the ‘public asylum of the insane of Bordeaux’, then ‘professor of the external clinic of the School of medicine of Bordeaux’.
In 1872 he organized in Bordeaux, with his friend Paul Broca, the first Congress of the French Society for the Advancement of Science.

He was also president of:

  •  Society of Doctors of Bordeaux (1863)
  • Society of Physical and Natural Sciences of Bordeaux (1866)
  •  Philomatic Society of Bordeaux (1880-1881)
  • Society of Archeology of Bordeaux (1881-1882)
  •  National Academy of Sciences, belles-lettres and arts of Bordeaux (1888)

Dr Azam was appointed an Officer of the Academy in 1865, an Officer of public instruction in 1869 and a Knight of the Legion of Honor in 1872.

Why is he on the site? 
With Alfred Velpeau and Paul Broca, he helped to make known in France the work of James Braid on hypnosis.
Azam was also the first to describe a case of "multiple personality": Félida X. In the space of eight years, he published three books on this patient, who presented "alternating personalities", - the disorder of the multiple personality.  And we have extracts from one of his books.

HYPNOTISM, DOUBLE CONSCIOUSNESS and alterations of personality (the case of Felida X...)


The Scottish surgeon James Braid was one of the first doctors to use hypnotism in the treatment of illness.  We have a description of his career and a number of case studies on the site.  Dr Braid also successfully used this method as a form of anaesthetic during surgery. Around 1848, Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault, a young surgery intern from France, became interested in hypnosis and also started to use it. At that time, ether was not yet used in anaesthesiology.

UK Science museum

Ether had been discovered in 1275, and its hypnotic effects noted in 1540 by the German botanist and chemist Valerius Cordus (1515-44). His contemporary Paracelsus also noted that it could be used to produce sleep.  Ether .... had a reputation as a recreational drug in the 1800s. From the 1840s ‘ether frolics’ involved the inhalation of ether at parties, which were often held by medical students. The use of ether specifically as an anaesthetic in dental and surgical procedures began in the 1840s. Its history was marked by bitter quarrels over who had first begun to use it this way. The Boston dentist William Morton was particularly active in attempting to patent its use.

On December 5, 1859, the surgeon Alfred Velpeau presented to the French Academy of Sciences the case history of a patient on which this new method of hypnotic anaesthesia using Braid’s method had been used.  The three doctors involved were

·        Étienne Eugène Azam

·        Paul Broca and

·        Eugene Follin

Velpeau described how, at Necker hospital, the three had operated on an anal tumour using hypnotic anaesthesia. The operation, normally very painful, was performed without the patient showing any sign of pain.

How had Dr Azam become interested in this area?

In June 1858, Dr Azam was called to provide care for a young girl ‘of the common people’, Felida X... who was said to be suffering from mental insanity, and who presented with a whole series of strange symptoms - spontaneous catalepsy, anaesthesia, hyperesthesia; she also presented with an interesting memory lesion.

Azam had been in a position through his father and his own work to observe similar symptoms in other patients, and his curiosity became “greatly aroused”.  Azam was open minded and honest, and as he says:

HYPNOTISM, DOUBLE CONSCIOUSNESS and alterations of personality (the case of Felida X...) 

Like many serious people, I had a principle: that we should not reject without examination what we do not understand; the sum of our physiological and psychological knowledge is far from giving us the right to do so. So I began to examine these questions with patience.

He consulted his colleagues and introduced them to his patient:

HYPNOTISM, DOUBLE CONSCIOUSNESS and alterations of personality (the case of Felida X...)  by Etienne Eugène Azam

most of them, as I ought to have expected, considered these morbid phenomena as trickery and considered me the object of illusions or deception: BUT three prominent men, after having seen Felida X... with me, encouraged me to study these phenomena and to do some research:
 - Parchappe, the famous psychiatrist;
 - Bazin, chief doctor of the public asylum for alienated women and professor at the Faculty of Science in Bordeaux, and
 - Élie Gintrac, director of the Medical School and correspondent of the Institute.

For these elite minds, science had to be completed in the delicate study of brain function and no fact should be overlooked.  For all the others, science was done, and anything outside the known framework could only be a deception.

Bazin, a man of great erudition, told me that according to Carpenter, an English doctor, Braid, had discovered a way to artificially reproduce phenomena similar to those I had observed in Félida X... He even put in my hands Braid's book which was almost unknown in France, and where hypnotism is described. Bazin had read it, but he had never tried by himself to repeat Braid's experiments.

I repeated them, not without doubt, I must admit, so extraordinary were the reported results.

At the first attempt, after a minute or two of the known procedure, my young patient was asleep; the anaesthesia was complete, the cataleptic state obvious. Then came extreme hyperaesthesia, with the possibility of answering questions, and other specific symptoms on the intelligence side. The result was such that I could not even wished for it; however, since this young girl presented all these phenomena spontaneously and morbidly, so to speak, it was certain that she had to be predisposed.  In the same house, there was another quite healthy young girl; I asked her to be tested, and after no more than two minutes the same results were obtained, more remarkable and perhaps more complete.

We have observations below that also describe his other experiments.

From these early successes, two famous schools of hypnotism arose.  The Salpêtriére School, also known as the School of Paris, was, with the Nancy School, the schools that contributed to the age of hypnosis in France from 1882 to 1892. The leader of this school was the neurologist Jean Martin Charcot, whom we have on the site along with a number of his case histories, practically all of which were the healing of people, without drugs.

Charcot wrote the introduction to Azam’s book on Felida X

J. MR. CHARCOT,  Member of the Institute  January 1st, 1888.

These days, now that hypnotism has succeeded, ……., it would be wrong to forget the names of those who had the courage to study this question at a time when it was subjected to universal condemnation. Dr. Azam was one of these initiators; the first in France, he sought to control through personal experiments the results announced by Braid. By chance, it is true, he was fortunate that the experimental subjects were placed into his hands who spontaneously presented some of the phenomena that Braid had described. But how many doctors, in Dr. Azam's place, would have ignored these interesting cases without getting involved, either for fear of being deceived by the trickery of a hysterical woman, or for fear of compromising their reputation in discredited studies, or simply as a result of this scientific laziness that keeps us from learning new facts and methods?

Dr. Azam's research is not only of historical interest; it also includes most of the somatic and psychic phenomena of anaesthesia, hyperesthesia, contracture, catalepsy, which we have learned since then to produce at will, ……, by addressing a special category of subjects. It is interesting to note in this regard that, both in terms of the choice of subjects and the nature of the phenomena produced, Dr. Azam's experiments deal with hysterical hypnosis, that is, the form of hypnosis that was first practised in science and which alone, even today, is so manifested by symptoms that those most sceptical cannot doubt its existence. Therefore, after having noted the similarity of Dr. Azam's research with that of the Ecole de la Salpêtrière, we must invite our eminent colleague to share in the success of a work to which he has contributed.

Note:  ‘Hysteria’ in this context means an illness which has started with some psychological trauma.  Post traumatic stress disorder would in those days have been classified as ‘hysteria’.


Charles-Marie-Étienne-Eugène Azam was born in Bordeaux on May 28, 1822. His father, Jean-Sixte Azam, was a doctor of the Public Asylum for Women in Bordeaux.
Eugene Azam studied medicine and received a doctorate in medicine in Paris on July 10, 1848.
He married Anne Suzanne Rolland, daughter of a paper manufacturer and granddaughter of a Dutch merchant Beker Terlinck. They lived on rue Vital-Carles in Bordeaux.

Apart from his professional activities Azam was an enlightened collector. He inherited from the family of his wife a large number of Dutch paintings and was particularly interested in Bordeaux earthenware.  He was also a renowned winemaker, with vineyards in the Pessac area and in the Lugon-et-l'Île-du-Carnay palus. When phylloxera infected Bordeaux vineyards, he published several studies on ways to combat the scourge.

Eugene Azam died in Bordeaux on December 16, 1899.


Books and Publications by Dr Eugène Azam

De la folie sympathique provoquée ou entretenue par les lésions organiques de l'utérus et de ses annexes, Bordeaux, G. Gounouilhou, 1858, 52 p. (disponible [archive] sur Gallica).
« Note sur le sommeil nerveux ou Hypnotisme », Archives générales de médecine,‎ janvier 1860, p. 48.
« De la Mort subite par embolie pulmonaire dans les contusions et les fractures », Journal de Médecine de Bordeaux,‎ 1864, p. 48.
« Éloge de F.-A. Bazin, fondateur de la Société des sciences physiques et naturelles de Bordeaux », Mem. Soc. Sc. Phys. et Nat. de Bordeaux, vol. 4, no 1,‎ janvier 1866, p. 30 (disponible [archive] sur Gallica).
De la Décentralisation universitaire et pourquoi Bordeaux doit avoir son Université, Bordeaux, Féret et fils, 1871.
« Nouveau Mode de réunion des plaies d'amputation et de quelques autres grandes plaies », Gazette des hôpitaux,‎ 1874.
« Le Phylloxéra dans le département de la Gironde », Mémoires présentés par divers savants à l'Académie des sciences, vol. 25, no 5,‎ 1876.
Amnésie périodique ou Dédoublement de la personnalité, Bordeaux, Féret et fils, 1877, 55 p. (lire en ligne [archive]).
« Sur un fait de double conscience, déductions thérapeutiques qu'on en peut tirer », Mémoires de la Société des sciences physiques et naturelles de Bordeaux, vol. 3, no 2,‎ 1879.
Réunion primitive et pansement des grandes plaies, Bordeaux, Féret et fils, 1879, 100 p. (disponible [archive] sur Gallica).
« Les troubles intellectuels provoqués par les traumatismes du cerveau », Archives générales de médecine,‎ 1881, p. 48 (disponible [archive] sur Gallica).
« Double Conscience, état actuel de Félida X... », Congrès de La Rochelle, Société pour l'avancement des sciences,‎ 1882, p. 20 (disponible [archive] sur Gallica).
Hypnotisme, double conscience et altérations de la personnalité : le cas Félida X (préf. Jean-Martin Charcot), Paris, J.-B. Baillière et fils, 1887, 294 p. (disponible [archive] sur Gallica).
Le Caractère dans la santé et dans la maladie (préf. Th. Ribot), Paris, Alcan, 1887.
« Les Troubles sensoriels organiques et moteurs consécutifs aux traumatismes du cerveau », Archives générales de médecine,‎ mai 1890.
« Entre la raison et la folie des toqués », Revue scientifique,‎ 1891.
Hypnotisme, double conscience et altérations de la personnalité : le cas Félida X (préf. Jean-Martin Charcot), Paris, J.-B. Baillière et fils, 1893, 387 p. (disponible [archive] sur Gallica).


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