Joseph Capgras

Jean Marie Joseph Capgras (1873 – 1950) was a French psychiatrist.

Cagras chose Psychiatry as a speciality after being influenced by his cousin, Dr Alexis Pécharman. Placed first in the competitive examination of the ‘Internat des asiles de la Seine’ (1898) and at the ‘adjuvat des asiles d’aliénés’ (1902)

His 1909 book Les Folies raisonnantes, le délire d’interprétation, was written with his mentor Paul Serieux (1864-1947), and brought Capgras considerable notoriety. They described 19 cases of circumscribed delusional disorder and demonstrated that patients with this condition are insightless into their illness.

Served as President of the Sociéte medico-psycho-logique (SMP) and in 1931 managed to merge the three divided groups of French Psychiatrist into a single organisation

Best known for his description of the ‘syndrome d’illusion des sosies’ – Capgras syndrome in 1923; and his work on war related psychiatric issues 1914-1918

  • Born 23 August 1873, Verdun-sur-Garonne
  • Medical degree, Toulouse
  • 1899-1903 Intern at Sainte-Anne in the service of Alix Joffroy (1844 – 1908)
  • 1900 – MD, defended thesis: “Essai de réduction de la mélancolie en une psychose d’involution présénile
  • 1902 – 1908 Working in numerous psychiatry clinics including asylum of La Rochelle (Lafond); asylum of Dury lès Amiens (Somme); and Dun-sur-Auron
  • 1908 – 1912 Ville-Evrard asylum in Neuilly-sur-Marne
  • 1912 – Chief Psychiatrist at the Masion-Blanche asylum
  • 1914 – Mobilised in the war and assigned to ‘l’Hôpital d’évacuation n°38, Secteur 5 (Châlons-sur-Marne)’, as a mobile field officer in la bataille de la Marne
  • 1916 – Assigned to the psychiatric centre at Orléans. Along with Paul Juquelier (1876-1921) and Joseph Bonhomme (1885-1969) provided reports on the mental confusion of war. August 1917 he was promoted to the rank of ‘médecin-major de 2e classe de l’A.T.’
  • 1919 – Decommissioned and resumed practice at Neuilly-sur-Marne
  • 1929-1936 Sainte-Anne Hospital until retirement
  • 1937 – Medical inspector for psychiatric hospitals, Dijon
  • Chevalier de Légion d’honneur
  • Died 27 January 1950, Dijon (Côte-d’Or)

Medical Eponyms
Capgras syndrome (1923)

An uncommon syndrome in which a patient has a delusional belief that a person, usually a family member or friend, has been replaced by an imposter.

It is commonly found in psychiatric disorders, namely, paranoid schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and affective disorders. Capgras syndrome has also been observed in a number of medical disorders, including dementia, Parkinson’s disease, central nervous system lesions, epilepsy, traumatic head injury, vitamin B12 deficiency, hepatic encephalopathy, diabetes, and hypothyroidism.


Described as an ‘ennemi de tout dogmatisme’, Capgras published many papers on erotomania and was a determined adversary of the ideas defended by his famous colleague De Clérambault (De Clerambault Syndrome, 1885)

Major Publications



Psychiatrist in the making

BA MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM. Emergency physician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.  Passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

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