See biography by G. Guillain (1959); study by A. R. Owen (1971).
Born in Paris, France, Europe, Charcot worked and taught at the famous Salpêtrière Hospital for thirty three years. His reputation as an instructor drew students from all over Europe. In 1882, he established a neurology clinic at Salpêtrière, which was the first of its kind in Europe.
Charcot's primary focus was neurology. He named and was the first to describe multiple sclerosis. He was also the first to describe a disorder known as Charcot joint or Charcot arthropathy, a degeneration of joint surfaces resulting from loss of proprioception. He researched the functions of different parts of the brain and the role of arteries in cerebral hemorrhage.
Charcot was also one of the first to describe Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT). The announcement was made simultaneously with Pierre Marie of France (his resident) and Howard Henry Tooth of England. The disease is also sometimes called peroneal muscular atrophy.
Charcot's most enduring work was on hypnosis and hysteria. He believed that hysteria was a neurological disorder caused by hereditary problems in the nervous system. He used hypnosis to induce a state of hysteria in patients and studied the results, and was single-handedly responsible for changing the French medical community's opinion about the validity of hypnosis (it was previously rejected as Mesmerism).
Charcot's works about hypnosis and his public demonstrations of "hypnotized" persons in an auditorium were sharply criticized by Hippolyte Bernheim, a leading neurologist of the time, and by Charcot's former scientific assistant Axel Munthe in his famous memoirs The Story of San Michele.