Michel Foucault was a French philosopher and historian (1926-1984). He received his education at the Sorbonne, focusing on psychology (1948) and at the University of Paris (psychopathology, 1950). His pursuit of history and philosophy was therefore seen as an interest rather than a scholarly endeavor. Between graduation and appointment at College of France, Foucault traveled and taught at a number of universities. Foucault achieved international acclaim with The Order of Things (written in 1966 and appearing in English translation by A.M. Sheridan in 1970); many of his other books began to appear in translation following the success of The Order of Things, making his work accessible to an international audience. In 1970, he was given the opportunity to join faculty at the CollÃge de France, and named his chair "History and Systems of Thought. " By the 1980s, historians began dealing with the implications of Foucault's work..
The Birth of the Clinic, his second major book-length work, was published in 1963. A.M. Sheridan's English translation appeared in 1973. Foucault's first three books are considered to be a trilogy, exploring the method of archaeology. After publishing The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969), which described his method more explicitly, Foucault shifted to a genealogical approach influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche's critique of history that accounted for some of the deficiencies in his earlier approach. In "Questions of Method, " Foucault participated in a roundtable discussion reflecting on his approach to the study of the history of the penal system in Discipline and Punish (1975).
Michel Foucault's unorthodox historiography does not treat the past is if it were an open book. He put it beautifully in the opening passage of "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History, " where he described writing history as deciphering a palimpsest. Foucault's method treated discourse and practice as the object of study, looking for ruptures in the history of discourses where changes in disciplinary practices became evident.