Jones, Ernest (1879-1958)

views updated Jun 27 2018

JONES, ERNEST (1879-1958)

Ernest Jones, a British psychoanalyst, was born at Gowerton, Glamorgan, Wales, on January 1, 1879, and died in London on February 11, 1958. The product of a middle-class Welsh family, Jones was educated at Swansea Grammar School and University College, Cardiff, and received his medical training at University College Hospital, London. His interests at this early stage of his career included clinical medicine, surgery, neurology, pathology, and also clinical psychiatry. He qualified in 1900 for a gold medal in the London M.D. examination. He became a member of the Royal College of Physicians in 1904 and received a Diploma of Public Health (Cam-bridge) in 1905. After qualifying, he held various hospital appointments and published several papers on childhood and adult neurological diseases.

In 1906, with his friend Lewis Trotter, he discovered Freud's writings, and this stimulated his interest in the German language. In 1907, as a graduate student, he went to Munich, where he discovered German neurology and psychiatry.

Psychoanalysis and the new interest in the emotional life of the individual brought about a deep change in him. In April 1908 he visited Vienna with Abraham Arden Brill, met Sigmund Freud for the first time, and discussed plans on how to translate and propagate Freud's work in the Anglo-American world. In a paper written in the same year and given at the International Psychoanalytical Congress at Salzburg, Jones coined the term "rationalization," which was accepted by Freud and became part of the technical language of psychoanalysis to indicate a way of trying to make sense of unconscious motivations by rationalizing them. Partly because of a series of severe setbacks that broke the progression of his career in London, in 1909 he emigrated to Canada, where he became Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto.

While in Canada, Jones was in touch with neurologists and psychiatrists in the United States. He became assistant editor of Morton Prince's newly founded Journal of Abnormal Psychology, in which he published several papers on psychoanalysis. He also organized the American Psychoanalytic Association, intended for psychoanalysts scattered all over the United States. In the meantime, he kept in touch with Freud in Vienna and accompanied Freud when the latter visited the United States to lecture at Clark University.

After he returned to England in 1913, Jones undertook a short personal analysis with Sándor Ferenczi. During the same year he founded the London Society of Psychoanalysis, but he eventually dissolved the society because some of his important followers favored Carl Gustav Jung. During the years of the First World War, Jones continued practicing as a private analyst in London and also lecturing widely on psychoanalysis both in London and outside, contributing to the gradual diffusion of the new discipline in the medical profession, which was highly resistant, and among the larger public. Particularly important were his contributions on the subject of shell-shock neuroses.

In 1919 Jones founded the British Psycho-Analytical Society. Having lost his first wife in 1918, in 1919 he married the Viennese Katherine Jokl. Shortly thereafter, in 1920, he established the International Psychoanalytical Press in collaboration with the Hogarth Press, founded the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, which he edited from 1920 to 1939, and coordinated a group of translatorsincluding James and Alix Strachey, Joan Riviere, and John Rick-manin the first systematic translation of Freud's works into English. As early as the 1920s Jones put forth the idea of a standard edition of Freud's work. To him we owe many of the English terms of Freud's technical language. Jones played a fundamental role in helping Melanie Klein to come to England in 1926.

Prior to the Second World War he effectively ruled psychoanalysis in England and had enormous influence in organizing the international psychoanalytical movement, the result being the International Psychoanalytical Association. Significant were his struggle to achieve scientific status for psychoanalysis in England, his attempts to develop the British way of looking at psychoanalysis, and his defense of Klein's views against the severe criticisms of Freud and his daughter Anna, while managing to remain a good friend and collaborator of Freud and to continue his own scientific production. Jones also became president of the International Psychoanalytical Association, a position he held for 17 years in total and finally relinquished in 1949.

In the late 1930s, when the pressure of the Nazi persecution of Jews made life impossible for his colleagues in Berlin, Vienna, and Budapest, Jones, with the help of his American colleague Brill and Marie Bonaparte, managed to get nearly fifty European psychoanalysts out of their countries first to England and then mainly to North America. Particularly important was the rescue of Freud and his family in 1938. Jones played an important role in trying to mediate between Anna Freud and Melanie Klein during the so called "controversial discussions" in the early 1940s. In 1946 he retired from the active life of the British PsychoAnalytical Society to the Plat, his beautiful cottage in Sussex. He devoted the last ten years of his life to writing Freud's biography The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (1953-1957) and his autobiography Free Associations (1959), as well as to collecting and reediting some of his clinical papers Papers on Psycho-Analysis (1948), despite a cancer of the bladder, which eventually killed him.

Jones was undoubtedly the finest organizer and politician in the first generation of Freud's followers. Without his prodigious energy and enormous work, psychoanalysis, both in the Anglo-American sphere and the world at large, would not have been able to assert itself as it did. Yet no one should forget Jones's theoretical and clinical contributions to psychoanalysis and his wide interest in applied psychoanalysis. His notion of female aphanisis (a syndrome of psychic blankness) is a significant contribution. Among his publications, particularly important are "The Theory of Symbolism" (1948c) and "The Early Development of Female Sexuality" (1948a), influenced by Melanie Klein. Jones collected his papers on applied psychoanalysis in Essays on Applied Psychoanalysis (1964), which shows the importance he gave to this area of research in psychoanalysis. One should also remember his work On the Nightmare (1910) and his classic psychoanalytic interpretation of Hamlet: Oedipus and Hamlet (1949). For decades his biography of Freud (1953-1957) has been considered the standard biography of Freud's life.

Riccardo Steiner

Works discussed: Hamlet and Oedipus; Sigmund Freud: Life and Work.

Notion developed: Aphanisis

See also: American Psychoanalytic Association; Boundary violations; British Psycho-Analytical Society; Canada; Controversial Discussions; Erythrophobia; Eroticism, anal; Feminism and psychoanalysis; First World War: The effect on the deverlopment of psychoanalysis; Functional phenomenon; Great Britain; International Journal of Psychoanalysis, The ; International Psychoanalytical Association; Lay analysis; Nightmare; Phallic mother; Psychoanalytic Review, The ; Psychotherapy; Rationalization; Scoptophilia/scopophilia; Secret Committee; Shakespeare and psychoanalysis; Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud ; Symbol; Symbolism; Tavistock Clinic.


Brome, Vincent. (1982). Ernest Jones: Freud's alter ego. London: Caliban Books.

Jones, Ernest. (1910). On the nightmare. London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1931.

. (1948a). Early development of female sexuality. In his Papers on psycho-analysis (5th ed.). London: Baillière, Tindall, and Cox. (Original work published 1927.)

. (1948b). Papers on psycho-analysis (5th ed.). London: Baillière, Tindall, and Cox.

. (1948c). The theory of symbolism. In his Papers on psycho-analysis (5th ed.). London: Baillière, Tindall, and Cox. (Original work published 1916.)

. (1949). Hamlet and Oedipus. London: Hogarth.

. (1953-1957). Sigmund Freud: Life and work (3 vols.). London: Hogarth.

. (1959). Free associations: memories of a psychoanalyst. London: Hogarth.

. (1964). Essays in applied psycho-analysis. New York: International Universities Press.

Lacan, Jacques. (1959).Á la mémoire d'Ernest Jones: sur la théorie du symbolisme. Psychanalyse, 5, 2-20.

Mijolla, Alain de. (1998). Freud, biography, his autobiography and his biographers. Psychoanalysis and History, 1 (1), 4-27.

Segal, Hanna. (1957). Notes on symbol formation. International Journal of Psycho-analysis, 38, 391-397.

Steiner, Riccardo. (1993). Introduction. In R. Andrew Paskauskas (Ed.), The complete correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Ernest Jones (pp. 21-49). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Jones, Ernest

views updated May 11 2018

Jones, Ernest



Ernest Jones (1879–1958) was one of a small band of pioneers who first espoused the teachings of Freud and who succeeded in developing a world-wide organization devoted to the advancement of those ideas. From about 1906, when he first took an active interest in the new science of psychoanalysis, Jones was its acknowledged leader in the English-speaking countries.

Of the deeper motives that led him to accept this scientifically adventurous career there is little record, save a few remarks in his short volume of memoirs (1959). He was born in Rhosfelyn, Glamorgan, a village on the Gower Peninsula of south Wales. Of modest parentage (his father was a self-made man), Jones quickly absorbed the aspirations to success that prevail in impoverished and provincial principalities and that have driven the Welsh to frequent eminence. A rather puny and ailing child, he soon showed signs of precocity, went early to the village school, where he was recognized as a boy “of parts,” proceeded to Swansea Grammar School, thence to University College, Cardiff, and finally to University College Hospital in London. In 1901, at the age of 21, he received his M.B. and B.S. from the University of London and three years later his medical degree. Although he became a member of the Royal College of Physicians in 1904, prejudice against psychoanalysis delayed his becoming a fellow of the College until 1942.

Like many other brilliant students, Jones preferred a hospital career to private practice in Harley Street. The gradual shifting of his interests, from clinical medicine to neurology and neuropathology, then to general psychiatry, and finally to psycho-analysis, is clearly indicated by the list of his appointments. After the usual post as house physician (at University College Hospital), he became clinical assistant to the Ophthalmic Hospital and the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, and then registrar and pathologist at the West End Hospital for Nervous Diseases. Finally he obtained the post of lecturer in practical neurology at the London School of Clinical Medicine. When it appeared that he could not rise further professionally in London, he emigrated, in 1908, to Canada, where the University of Toronto and the Toronto General Hospital offered him more satisfactory positions. By this time he was a full-fledged psychiatrist and had begun to experiment with psychoanalytic techniques. He had first met Freud before he moved to Canada, and when Freud came to lecture at Clark University in 1909, Jones met him a second time. After this meeting, Jones decided to devote himself exclusively to psychoanalysis and to return as soon as possible to England.

Jones’s organizational efforts on behalf of psychoanalysis were prodigious: he set up professional organizations both in America and, after his return in 1913, in England; he edited the International Journal of Psycho-analysis; and he was a leading founder of the Institute of Psycho-analysis in London and cofounder and first director of the London Clinic of Psycho-analysis. His intensive committee work on a British Medical Association inquiry into the workings of psychoanalysis led to the recognition of the science by this conservative and some-times hostile body. After this victory he played an increasingly active part in the affairs of the International Psycho-analytic Association and often acted as president, finally retiring with the honorary title of “perpetual president.”

Thoroughly versed in psychoanalytic method, Jones was at the same time closely conversant with the methodologies not only of academic psychology and sociology but also of natural science in general and organic medicine in particular. He was able to dovetail the results of his excellent research with the structure of psychoanalytical and psychological theory. Although a great deal of his early work was necessarily didactic, as for example his classic essay on dreams, he broke new ground in his monographs on suggestion, on the nature of symbolism, on anal-character formation, and on the obsessional neuroses (see Papers on Psycho-analysis, 1913).

It is possible, however, that in the long run Jones will be best remembered for his contributions to applied psychoanalysis. Here, as in his research interests, his range was extremely wide and gave him ample opportunity to display his almost obsessive erudition. His contributions to literary and artistic problems and puzzles, to the understanding of folklore and myth, of various aspects of religious belief and practice, of linguistics, and of a host of other social and cultural subjects were always illuminated by a wealth of apposite examples. Literary critics find his essay on Hamlet (1949) and his biography of Freud (1953–1957) especially noteworthy. The Freud biography, an immense compendium of facts as well as a sustained char-acterological and intellectual study, is sufficient to secure him a lasting reputation.

Keen and nimble of wit and endowed with unusual tenacity of purpose, Jones was able to over-come the inevitable setbacks to which pioneers are subject. No one could have been better suited to lead what proved to be a scientific crusade in the face of bitter and prolonged opposition. Psychoanalysis afforded him a disciplined outlet for an unusual degree of filial piety: his scientific allegiance to Freud was greatly reinforced by personal devotion, and he rendered tribute to his mentor by every expedient of scientific defense. Oblivious of unpopularity, he was more concerned with the well-being of the psychoanalytic movement than with success in professional diplomacy.

Edward Glover

[For the historical context of Jones’s work, seePsychoanalysis; and the biography ofFreud. For discussion of the subsequent development of Jones’s ideas, seeObsessive–compulsive disordersandPsychoanalysis, article onego psychology.]


(1913) 1948 Papers on Psycho-analysis. 5th ed. London: Baillière.

(1923) 1951 Essays in Applied Psycho-analysis. 2 vols. London: Hogarth.

1949 Hamlet and Œdipus. London: Gollancz. → The revision of an essay published in 1910 in the American Journal of Psychology under the title “The Œdipus Complex as an Explanation of Hamlet’s Mystery.” A paperback edition was published in 1954 by Doubleday.

1953–1957 The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud. 3 vols. New York: Basic Books. → Volume 1: The Formative Years and the Great Discoveries, 1953. Volume 2: Years of Maturity, 1955. Volume 3: The Last Phase, 1957.

1959 Free Associations: Memories of a Psycho-analyst. New York: Basic Books.


Ernest Jones [obituary]. 1958 British Medical Journal [1958]: 463–465.

Ernest Jones [obituary]. 1958 Lancet [1958], no. 1:438–439.

Ernest Alfred Jones

views updated May 23 2018

Ernest Alfred Jones

The British psychologist Ernest Alfred Jones (1879-1958) championed the cause of psychoanalysis from its early days, becoming one of its most active leaders and supporters.

Born in Gowerton, Glamorgan, Wales, on Jan. 1, 1879, Ernest Jones attended Swansea Grammar School, University College at Cardiff, University College Hospital, and the University of London, where he obtained his undergraduate and medical degrees. He went on to earn a doctorate at Cambridge University.

While studying neurology and psychiatry at the University of Munich, Jones encountered the writings of Sigmund Freud. Engaging in the practice of clinical psychiatry, Jones discovered a need for deeper understanding of the patient's mind. Only psychoanalysis, he found, could fill this need.

In 1905 Jones began practicing psychoanalysis. An unfortunate incident, which caused his dismissal from a London hospital, proved to be a blessing in disguise. In 1908 he moved to Toronto, Canada, where with the help of Sir William Osler he became a professor of psychiatry and director of the Clinic for Nervous Disorders. That same year Jones published his masterful "Rationalization in Every Day Life" in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. In this article he instituted the term "rationalization," which then became known as one of the several "psychic mechanisms" by means of which mental life is better explained.

Jones made frequent trips to the United States, lecturing and proselytizing for the new science of the unconscious. In Boston he met the eminent New England neurologist J. J. Putnam and converted him to psychoanalysis. On May 9, 1911, the American Psychoanalytic Association was founded with Putnam as president and Jones as secretary.

Jones's Papers on Psychoanalysis (1912), revised and republished many times, was the first systematic presentation of psychoanalysis in England. This book contained not only a didactic exposition of the principles of psychoanalysis for the student but suggestive and stimulating ideas for the researcher as well. In 1913 Jones returned to England, and during World War I he trained doctors to a recognition of the psychogenic causation of disease. He founded the British Psychoanalytic Society and continued as honorary president of the International Psychoanalytic Association.

In 1947 Jones began work on Sigmund Freud: Life and Work, a comprehensive and definitive biography. It appeared in three volumes (1953-1957) and covers the years of Freud's life chronologically.

One of the few major subjects on which Jones disagreed with Freud was the nature of death. Jones felt that death was simply the end of individual life, not the fulfillment of an inner instinct. Jones died in London on Feb. 11, 1958.

Further Reading

Jones's Free Associations: Memories of a Psychoanalyst (1959) is an informal and readable autobiography published a year after his death. Dieter Wyss, Depth Psychology: A Critical History (trans. 1966), contains the section "The British Group and Its Most Important Representatives," which includes Jones. Clarence P. Oberndorf in A History of Psychoanalysis (1953) discusses Jones's relationship to the psychoanalytic movement. See also Henri F. Ellenberger, The Discovery of the Unconscious (1970).

Additional Sources

Jones, Ernest, Free associations: memories of a psycho-analyst, New Brunswick, U.S.A.: Transaction Publishers, 1990. □