Alfred Ernest Jones (January 1, 1879 – February 11, 1958) Welsh neurologist, psychoanalyst and Sigmund Freud’s official biographer. As the first English-language practitioner of psychoanalysis and as President of both of the British Psycho-Analytical Society and the International Psychoanalytic Association in the 1920s and 1930s, Jones exercised unmatched influence in the establishment of its organisations, institutions and publications in the English-speaking world.
Born in Gowerton (formerly Ffosfelin), an industrial village on the outskirts of Swansea, Wales, UK, the son of a colliery engineer, Jones was educated at Swansea Grammar School, Llandovery College, University College Cardiff and University College London where in 1901 he obtained a first-class honours degree in medicine and obstetrics followed by an MD and membership of the Royal College of Physicians in 1903. He was particularly pleased to receive the University’s gold medal in obstetrics from his distinguished fellow Welshman, Sir John Williams
After obtaining his medical degrees Jones specialised in neurology and took a number of posts in London Hospitals. It was through his association with the surgeon Wilfred Trotter that Jones recalled first hearing of Freud’s work. Having worked together as surgeons at University College Hospital they had become close friends, with Trotter taking the role of mentor and confidant to his younger colleague. They had in common a wide-ranging interest in philosophy and literature, as well as a growing interest in Continental psychiatric literature and the new forms of clinical therapy it surveyed. By 1905 they were sharing accommodation above Harley Street consulting rooms with Jones’s sister, Elizabeth (later to become Trotter’s wife), installed as housekeeper. Jones, appalled at what he had seen of the institutionalised treatment of the “insane”, began experimenting with hypnotic techniques in his clinical work.
It was in 1905 in a German psychiatric journal that Jones first encountered Freud’s writings, in the form of the famous Dora case-history. It was thus he formed, as his autobiography records: “the deep impression of there being a man in Vienna who actually listened with attention to every word his patients said to him..…a revolutionary difference from the attitude of previous physicians....” (Jones 1959:159).
Unfortunately for Jones the medical establishment of Edwardian England was deeply antagonistic to Freudian theory and in this context Jones’s early attempts to employ psychoanalytic insights in his clinical work proved less than circumspect. In 1906 he was tried and acquitted over allegations of improper conduct with pupils in a London school. In 1908, having demonstrated the repressed sexual memory underlying the hysterical paralysis of a young girl’s arm, he faced allegations from the girl’s parents and was forced to resign his hospital post.
In facing these trials and tribulations Jones was able to call on the emotional and financial support of his mistress Loe Kann, a wealthy Dutch émigré whom he had first met in London in 1906. Their relationship came to an end in 1913 with Kann in analysis with Freud and Jones, at Freud's behest, with Sandor Ferenczi.
In 1917 Jones married the Welsh composer Morfydd Llwyn Owen. She died eighteen months later following complications from surgery for appendicitis. In 1919, in Zurich, Jones met and married Katherine Jokl, a Jewish economics graduate from Moravia who had been at school in Vienna with Freud’s daughters. They were to have four children and remain happily married.
Whilst attending a congress of neurologists in Amsterdam in 1907, Jones met Carl Jung from whom he received a first-hand account of the work of Freud and his circle in Vienna. Confirmed in his judgement of the importance of Freud’s work, Jones joined Jung in Zurich to plan the inaugural Psychoanalytical Congress. This was held in 1908 in Salzburg where Jones met Freud for the first time. Jones then travelled to Vienna for further discussions with Freud and introductions to the members of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. Thus began a personal and professional relationship which, to the acknowledged benefit of both, would survive the many dissensions and rivalries which marked the first decades of the psychoanalytic movement, and would last until Freud’s death in 1939.
With his career prospects in Britain in serious difficulty, Jones sought refuge in Canada in 1908, taking up teaching duties in the Department of Psychiatry of Toronto University and, the following year, the post of Director of the newly established Ontario Clinic for Nervous Diseases attached to the Toronto Hospital for the Insane. In 1910 Jones was appointed Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University.
Following further meetings with Freud in 1909 at Clark University, Massachusetts, where Freud gave a series of lectures on psychoanalysis, and in Holland the following year, Jones set about forging strong working relationships with the nascent American psychoanalytic movement, giving some 20 papers or addresses to American professional societies at venues ranging from Boston, to Washington and Chicago. In 1910 he co-founded the American Psychopathological Association and the following year the American Psychoanalytic Association, serving as its first Secretary until 1913.
He also found he time for an intensive programme of writing and research which produced the first of what were to be many significant contributions to psychoanalytic literature, notably monographs on Hamlet and On the Nightmare. A number of these were published in German in the main psychoanalytic periodicals published in Vienna and thereby served to secure his status in Freud's inner circle during the period of the latter's increasing estrangement from Jung. It was in this context that, in 1912, Jones initiated, with Freud's agreement, the formation of a Secret Committee of loyalists charged with safeguarding the theoretical and institutional legacy of the psychoanalytic movement. This development also served the more immediate purpose of isolating Jung and, with Jones in strategic control, eventually manoeuvring him out of the Presidency of the International Psychoanalytic Association, a post he had held since its inception. When Jung's resignation came in 1914, it was only the outbreak of war which prevented Jones taking his place.
On his return to London in 1913 Jones set up in practice as a psychoanalyst, founded the London Psychoanalytic Society and continued to write and lecture on psychoanalytic theory. A collection of his papers appeared as Papers on Psychoanalysis, the first comprehensive account of psychoanalytic theory and practice to be published in the English language.
By 1919, the year he founded the British Psychoanalytical Society, Jones could report proudly to Freud that psychoanalysis in Britain “stands in the forefront of medical, literary and psychological interest” (letter 27 January 1919 (Paskauskas 1993)). As President of the Society – a post he would hold until 1944 – Jones secured funding for and supervised the establishment in London of a Clinic offering subsidised fees and an Institute of Psychoanalysis which provided administrative, publishing and training facilities for the growing network of professional psychoanalysts.
Jones went on to serve two periods as President of the International Psychoanalytic Association from 1920 to1924 and 1932 to 1949. In 1920 he founded the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, serving as its editor until 1939. The following year he established the International Psychoanalytic Library, which published some 50 books under his editorship. Jones soon obtained from Freud rights to the English translation of his work and in 1924 the first two volumes of Freud's Collected Papers appeared in translations edited by Jones and supervised by Joan Riviere his former analysand and, at one stage, ardent suitor. Following analysis with Freud, she was able to form a productive working relationship with Jones, serving as the translation editor of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis. She would later join with Jones and James Strachey in a working group to plan and deliver the post-war Standard Edition of Freud’s Collected Works (London: Hogarth Press, 24 volumes 1953-1973).
Largely through Jones’s energetic advocacy, the British Medical Association officially recognised psychoanalysis in 1929. The BBC subsequently removed him from a list of speakers declared to be dangerous to public morality and in 1932 he gave a series of radio broadcast on psychoanalysis.
After Hitler took power in Germany Jones helped many displaced and endangered Jewish analysts to resettle in England and other countries. Following the Anschluss of March 1938, Jones flew into Vienna at considerable personal risk, to play a crucial role in negotiating and organising the emigration of Freud and his circle to London.
After the end of the war, Jones gradually relinquished his many official posts whilst continuing his psychoanalytic practice, writings and lecturing. The major undertaking of his final years was his monumental account of Freud’s life and work, published to widespread acclaim in three volumes between 1953 and 1957. In this he was ably assisted by his German speaking wife who translated much of Freud’s early correspondence and other archive documentation made available by Anna Freud. An uncompleted autobiography, Free Associations, was published posthumously in 1959.
Always proud of his Welsh origins, Jones became a member of the Welsh Nationalist Party, Plaid Cymru. He had a particular love of the Gower peninsula, which he had explored extensively in his youth and which, following the purchase of a holiday cottage in Llanmadoc, became a regular holiday retreat for the Jones family. He was instrumental in helping secure its status in 1956, as the first region of the UK to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Jones was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1942, Honorary President of the International Psychoanalytic Association in 1949 and an Honorary Doctor of Science (Wales) at Swansea University in 1954.
Books appear in order of publication. Jones (1912) and (1923) were subsequently reprinted in revised and enlarged editions. A comprehensive listing of Jones's articles and papers can be found in Maddox (2006).
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