Payne, Sylvia May (1880-1976)

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PAYNE, SYLVIA MAY (1880-1976)

Sylvia Payne, British physician, psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst was born on November 6, 1880 in Wimbledon, Surrey, England. She died on July 30, 1976 in Tunbridge Wells, Sussex, England.

Payne was the daughter of a clergyman and one of nine siblings. She went to Wimbledon High School. At thirteen she had taken the exams to enter a Musical College, but after her teacher died, she decided to study medicine instead. She trained at Westfield College and the London School of Medicine for Women (Royal Free Hospital). She qualified in 1906. In 1908 she married a surgeon, J. E. Payne, with whom she had three sons. During the 1914-1918 War she was Commandant and Officer in Charge of the Torquay Red Cross Hospital, and for her services there she was appointed CBE, (Companion of the order of the British Empire) in 1918.

It was while working with shell-shocked patients that she first heard about Freud's work. She started analysis in London with James Glover. In 1920 she went to Berlin to have analysis with Hanns Sachs. While there she learned enough German to read Freud's Ego and the Id for herself. She returned to London and was elected an Associate Member of the British Society on June 1922. She was elected a full Member in October 1924. Her husband, who was a general practitioner, sent her patients. She was thus independent of Jones or Glover for referrals. She held many important offices in the Society and was a trusted administrator and colleague. In 1926 she joined the staff of the London Clinic of Psychoanalysis and was Honorary Secretary of it until 1937. In 1927 she was elected to the Training Committee, on which she served for many years. In 1929 she replaced Rickman as Secretary of the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, and she was elected Business Secretary of the Society. As such she was responsible for arranging for the typed record of the Controversial Discussions that took place during the Second World War. She was elected President of the British Society in 1944, following the controversies. As president, she played an important role in facilitating the rapprochement between Anna Freud and the British Society in 1946, which resulted in a revised training scheme that offered two parallel training courses. She was again elected President of the Society from 1954-1956, during the Freud Centenary Celebrations. In 1962 she was elected an Honorary Member of the Society.

Payne did not publish many papers, but read fourteen papers to the British Society. These cover clinical problems, combining Freud's conceptual framework with her concern for training issues.

She believed that psychoanalysis flourished in an atmosphere of scientific controversy, and although a "moderate," she always valued contributions from colleagues from different theoretical orientations. It is largely due to her that there is one united psychoanalytical society in Britain today.

Pearl H. M. King

See also: British Psycho-Analytical Society; Controversial Discussions; Feminism and psychoanalysis; Great Britain; Tavistock Clinic.


Payne, Sylvia M. (1935). The conception of femininity. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 15, 18-33.

. (1939). Some observations on the ego development of a fetishist. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 20, 161-170.

. (1943a). Contribution to the discussion of the fundamentals of technique. In King, Steiner (Eds.): The Freud-Klein controversies 1941-1945. (p. 648-652). London: Institute of Psycho-Analysis-Routledge, 1991.

. (1943b). The principles and methods of the training of child psycho-analysts. International Journal of PsychoAnalysis, 24, 61-63.

. (1946). Notes on the theory of psycho-analytical therapy and its connection with the theory of technique. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 27, 12-19.