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File:Edouard Seguin.jpg

Édouard Séguin.

Édouard Séguin (January 12, 1812 - October 28, 1880) was a physician and educationist who was born in Clamecy, Nièvre. He is remembered for his work with children having cognitive impairments in France and the United States.

He studied at the Collège d’Auxerre and the Lycée St Louis in Paris, and from 1837 studied and worked under Jean Marc Gaspard Itard, who was an educator of deaf-mute individuals, that included the celebrated case of Victor of Aveyron, also known as "The Wild Child". It was Itard who persuaded Séguin to dedicate himself to study the causes, as well as the training of those with intellectual disabilities. As a young man Séguin was also influenced by the ideas of utopian socialist Henri de Saint-Simon.

Around 1840 he established the first private school in Paris dedicated to the education of the mentally handicapped, and in 1846 published Traitement Moral, Hygiène, et Education des Idiots (The Moral Treatment, Hygiene, and Education of Idiots and Other Backward Children). This work is considered to be the earliest systematic textbook dealing with the special needs of children with mental disabilities.

Following the European revolutions of 1848, Séguin emigrated to the United States, where he eventually settled in Ohio as a medical practitioner. Later he relocated to New York State and set up a medical practice in Mount Vernon, New York (1860). In 1863 he moved to the New York City, where he made efforts to improve conditions of handicapped children at the Randall's Island asylum.

In the United States he established a number of schools in various cities for treatment of those with intellectual disabilities. In 1866 he published "Idiocy: and its Treatment by the Physiological Method"; in which he described the methods used at the "Séguin Physiological School" in New York City. Programs used in Séguin's schools stressed the importance of developing self-reliance and independence in the mentally disabled by giving them a combination of physical and intellectual tasks.

Édouard Séguin became the first president of the "Association of Medical Officers of American Institutions for Idiotic and Feebleminded Persons", which would later be known as the American Association on Mental Retardation. His work with the mentally handicapped was a major inspiration to Italian educator Maria Montessori.

In the 1870s Séguin published three works in the field of thermometry, the branch of physics concerned with temperature measurement; Thermometres physiologiques (Paris, 1873); Tableaux de thermometrie mathematique (1873); and Medical Thermometry and Human Temperature (New York, 1876). He also devised a special "physiological thermometer" in which zero was the standard temperature of health.

Also a medical symptom known as "Séguin's signal" is named after him, which is described as an involuntary muscle contraction prior to an epileptic attack.


  • DHM: Library- In Memory Of Edouard Seguin, M.D. (Document)
  • Parts of this article are based on a translation of the equivalent article from the German Wikipedia.

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