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 on Ernest Alfred Jones

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 Biography Sources

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