Ernest Jones | the first British psychoanalyst

Ernest Jones was the first English-speaking practitioner of psychoanalysis

Born on New Year’s Day, 1879, in a village a few miles from Swansea, Alfred Ernest Jones first encountered the work of Freud in 1905. He became intrigued by ‘a man in Vienna who actually listened with attention to every word his patients said to him.’  This approach was new to Jones, at that time a neurologist working in London hospitals.

As with other early psychoanalysts, scandal quickly ensued

Jones soon began trying Freud’s techniques with his own patients. This quickly led to problems. In 1906, Jones was arrested and charged with indecent assault on two adolescent girls he had interviewed at a school for children with emotional and psychological problems. Jones, in claiming his innocence, suggested the girls were fantasising in their accusations. The judge eventually acquitted Jones of the charges, largely dismissing the claims of the two children.

In 1908 in a separate scandal, Jones was accused of interviewing a young girl without the consent of the girls consultant and without a required chaperone present. When the girl’s parents registered complaints about the interview, Jones was forced to resign his position at the London hospital where he had been employed.

Jones’ personal life, too, came with complications. His first significant relationship was with a patient referred to him for morphine addiction. This relationship lasted just a few years.

Following this, Jones had a brief relationship with Anna Freud but Anna’s father, Sigmund, did not approve and their relationship soon ended.

In 1918, 18 months after their marriage, Jones’ first wife died following complications after surgery. One year later, he married Katherine, his second wife. They remained married for many years and had four children.

In 1907, Jones interest in psychoanalysis led him to a conference in Amsterdam where he met Carl Jung. Meeting Jung confirmed Jones interest in psychoanalysis and together, Jones and Jung organised the very first psychoanalytic congress in Salzburg in 1908. It was at this conference in Salzburg that Jones met Freud for the first time.

Jones’ psychoanalytic legacy

After spending several years in Canada and America, Jones returned to London and founded the London Psychoanalytic Society. His research and writings were included in Papers on Psychoanalysis.  This collection of papers was the first account of psychoanalytic theory by a practising therapist to be published in the English language.

In 1919, Jones founded the British Psychoanalytical Society where he remained president until 1944. In 1920, Jones founded the International Journal of Psychoanalysis. From Freud, Jones secured the rights to the English translation of Freud’s work and in 1924 the first two volumes of Freud’s Collected Papers were published and edited by Jones. It was largely through Jones’ work that the British Medical Association officially recognised psychoanalysis in 1929.

After meeting Melanie Klein, Jones own views on psychoanalysis diverged somewhat from Freud’s theories and controversy arose between Freud and Jones. Jones died in London in 1958. A commemorative plaque can be found at 19 York Terrace East, NW1 in Regents Park.

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