Thomas A. Ban: In Honor of Pierre Pichot
Driss Moussaoui: Pierre Pichot’s 100th birthday*
Pierre Pichot was the fifth President of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), elected during the World Congress of Psychiatry held in Honolulu in 1977. Having been one of his closest students, I had the privilege to spend exclusive time with him recently on his 100th birthday, along with his daughter, C. Simon-Pichot. Memories came back easily during our visit.
Pichot was the first University intern to join, in 1944, the team of Jean Delay, who went on to become the very first President of the WPA in 1950, serving until 1961.
Pichot had been trained in mathematics and in psychology and wanted at first to become a neurologist. Delay asked him to take care of patients with general paralysis in Bicêtre Hospital and after that of children with epilepsy in the Fondation Vallée in Gentilly, south of Paris. After that, he joined. Delay at the Sainte Anne Hospital in Paris.
Pichot remained in the team of Delay until Delay’searly retirement in 1970 and succeeded him as chair of the Clinique des Maladies Mentales et de l’Encéphale in Paris’ Sainte Anne Hospital. At the same time, another chair was created for Pierre Deniker, who had discovered with Delay the antipsychotic properties of chlorpromazine.
In 1948 Pichot was appointed as first assistant to Henri Ey, the Secretary General of the first World Congress of Psychiatry (named “International Congress of Psychiatry”) that took place in Paris in 1950. He had a crucial role in the organization of that congress and spent numerous days and nights typing letters himself in the various foreign languages that he mastered (English, German, Spanish among others).
In 1960 he headed a team of collaborators and friends who offered the “sword of academician” to Delay when he was elected member of the Académie Française. During the ceremony Delay addressed Pichot with the following words: “I have been able to measure – but it is imprudent to use this term before an exacting specialist of psychometry – the rectitude of your character and the sureness of your judgement.”
As a matter of fact, Pichot was also Professor at the Institute of Psychology of the René Descartes University in Paris. He published, with Delay, who had also been trained in psychology during his early career, a book entitled Abrégé de Psychologie.
In the field of quantitative psychopathology and psychometrics, he produced the volume Les Tests Mentaux and co-authored the book Méthodes Psychométriques en Clinique – Tests Mentaux et Interprétation.
Pichot introduced, translated and validated the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale of Overall and Gorham in French. In the early 1970s he also introduced and promoted behavior therapy, later to become cognitive behavior therapy. However, he kept a number of psychoanalysts in his team.
When Pichot became President of the WPA in 1977, with Peter Berner from Vienna as Secretary General, they had to deal with a very serious crisis: the political abuse of psychiatry in various countries of the world (South Africa, Cuba and especially the Soviet Union). The cold war that darkened the political atmosphere worldwide at that time found a strong battlefield in psychiatry. This crisis led to the withdrawal of the Association of Psychiatrists and Narcologists of the Soviet Union from the WPA during the Athens World Congress of Psychiatry in 1989, and the trip of the WPA Commission that was sent in 1991 to the Soviet Union to assess the situation on this subject, of which I was a member.
After having left the presidency of the WPA at the end of the World Congress in Vienna, Pichot was instrumental in creating the European Psychiatric Association with some French and German colleagues. He also wrote an important book on the history of psychiatry, Un Siècle de Psychiatrie, describing with many details classical psychiatry during the 19th and the 20th centuries. Among his most recent contributions are the papers on the origins of the concept of bipolar disorder and on the reception of the DSM-III from a European perspective.
The fact that he was one of the organizers of the first World Congress of Psychiatry, that he was polyglot, his interests outside psychiatry and neurology, including history, led him to open windows from French psychiatry towards the rest of the world, making it known elsewhere, and from the world into French psychiatry, making it more international.
For example, he organized in Paris a meeting between the Société Médico-Psychologique and the American Psychiatric Association, the two oldest psychiatric associations in the world, on the DSM-III project two years before it was published. This and other moves in his professional life came from a strong vision about psychiatry’s future and about the role that must be played by the WPA.
Pierre Pichot has numerous pupils around the world, especially in Japan, where he received, in the early 1990s, a medal from the Emperor in recognition of his support to Japanese psychiatry. Professor Pichot was my teacher since 1973, when he welcomed me in his department. I am proud to be one of his pupils. I never talked to him without learning something from him. A true mentor who honors French speaking, European and world psychiatry.
Delay J, Pichot P. Abrégé de psychologie. Paris: Masson, 1975.
Delay J, Pichot P, Perse J. Méthodes psychométriques en clinique – Tests mentaux et interprétation. Paris: Masson, 1966.
Pichot P. Les tests mentaux. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1967.
Pichot P. Un siècle de psychiatrie. Paris: Empêcheurs de Penser Rond, 1996.
Pichot P. Tracing the origins of bipolar disorder: from Falret to DSM-IV and ICD-10. J Affect Disord 2006;96(3):145-8.
Pichot P. DSM-III and its reception: a European view. Am J Psychiatry 1997;154(Suppl. 6): 47-54.
*This paper was adopted from World Psychiatry, 2020;19(2):262, on request by its author with the permission of the publication’s editor, Mario Maj. The adopted paper was converted into INHN website format and copy edited.
February 11, 2021