Psychoanalyst Ernest Jones: Biography, Career and Main Contributions to Psychology

Alexander Tokarev, PhD
Updated on: March 15, 2024
Reviewed by:
Yelnur Shildibekov, PhD
Ernest Jones – PSYCULATOR
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Alfred Ernest Jones was a Welsh neurologist and the first English-speaking practitioner of psychoanalysis. From their initial encounter in 1908, he maintained a lifelong friendship and professional collaboration with Sigmund Freud, ultimately serving as Freud's official biographer.

Jones was the first English-speaking practitioner of psychoanalysis and emerged as its foremost advocate in English-speaking regions. His leadership as President of both the International Psychoanalytical Association and the British Psychoanalytical Society during the 1920s and 1930s significantly shaped the formation of these organizations, influencing their structures, institutions, and publications.

Fast Facts: Ernest Jones

  • Born: January 1, 1879, in Gowerton, Wales
  • Died: February 11, 1958, in London, England
  • Nationality: Britain, Wales
  • Education: Cardiff University, University College London
  • Contribution: Notable psychoanalyst, co-founder of the British Psychoanalytical Society
  • Concepts: Phallocentrism, Aphanisis, Rationalization
  • Known for: First English-speaking practitioner of Psychoanalysis
  • Significance: Close associate of Sigmund Freud, biographer of Freud, and influential in the dissemination of psychoanalysis in the English-speaking world

Personal Life

Ernest Jones was born in 1879 in Gowerton, an industrial village near Swansea in South Wales, Great Britain. Born to a colliery engineer, he received his education at Swansea Grammar School, Llandovery College, University College Cardiff, and later, University College London.

In 1901, he earned a degree in medicine, subsequently obtaining a doctorate and membership in the Royal College of Physicians in 1903.

Jones initially focused on neurology after completing his medical degrees, taking various positions in London hospitals. His exploration of French and German literature in neurology sparked an interest in psychiatry.

The turning point occurred when he encountered Freud's writings in a German psychiatric journal, particularly the famous Dora case-history. This exposure left a profound impact, as Jones recognized a revolutionary approach to patient care in Vienna, where the physician listened attentively to every word spoken by their patients – a departure from traditional medical attitudes.

Regrettably, Edwardian England was not receptive to revolutionary ideas about human sexuality. Jones faced challenges when attempting to apply psychoanalytic insights in his clinical work. In 1906, he faced allegations of improper conduct with pupils at a London school but was ultimately acquitted. Two years later, after demonstrating sexual repression as the cause of a young girl's hysterical paralysis, he resigned from his hospital post due to allegations from the girl's parents.

During these turbulent times, Jones found emotional and financial support from his mistress, Loe Kann, a wealthy Dutch émigré he had met in London in 1906. Their relationship concluded in 1913, leading Kann to undergo analysis with Freud, while Jones sought analysis with Sandor Ferenczi.

In 1917, Jones married the Welsh composer Morfydd Llwyn Owen. Unfortunately, she passed away eighteen months later due to complications from appendicitis surgery. In 1919, while in Zurich, Jones met and married Katherine Jokl, a Jewish economics graduate from Moravia who had attended school in Vienna with Freud's daughters. The couple had four children and enjoyed a happily enduring marriage.

Psychoanalytical Career

While attending a neurologists' congress in Amsterdam in 1907, Jones met Carl Jung, who provided him with insights into Freud's work.

Encouraged by Jung, Jones joined him in Zürich to plan the inaugural Psychoanalytical Congress in 1908, where he met Freud for the first time. This marked the beginning of a lasting personal and professional relationship that endured until Freud's death in 1939.

Facing challenges in Britain, Jones sought refuge in Canada in 1908, where he took up teaching at the University of Toronto and played a pivotal role in establishing psychoanalysis in North America.

Jones co-founded the American Psychopathological Association in 1910 and the American Psychoanalytic Association in 1911, serving as its first Secretary.

He returned to London in 1913, establishing himself as a psychoanalyst, founding the London Psychoanalytic Society, and contributing significantly to psychoanalytic literature. By 1919, Jones founded the British Psychoanalytical Society and became its President until 1944.

Under his leadership, he secured funding for a Clinic and an Institute of Psychoanalysis in London. Jones served two terms as President of the International Psychoanalytic Association, from 1920 to 1924 and 1932 to 1949, significantly influencing the field.

In 1920, he initiated the International Journal of Psychoanalysis and established the International Psychoanalytic Library in 1921, publishing numerous books under his editorship.

Jones played a crucial role in the official recognition of psychoanalysis by the British Medical Association in 1929, and in the 1930s, he and his colleagues conducted radio broadcasts on psychoanalysis.

Theoretical Contributions

Jones found inspiration in Melanie Klein's work from the moment he first encountered it, and gradually, his own writings began to reflect the influence of her ideas and advancements. Guided by Klein's insights, he delved into the exploration of early psychic development, with a particular focus on the formation of the superego and the intricacies of the female castration complex.

Jones is credited with coining a number of important psychological concepts, used in psychoanalysis

  • Phallocentrism: The privileging of the masculine (the phallus) in understanding meaning or social relations.
  • Aphanisis: Denoting a fear of the permanent extinction of the capacity, including the opportunity, for sexual enjoyment. This term came as a result of Jones’s reexamination of Freud's notion of the castration complex
  • Rationalization: Additionally, Jones is recognized for pioneering the use of the term "rationalization" in the context of psychological processes.

He also wrote on the subject of the unconscious mind, stating that:

The unconscious of one human being can react upon that of another without passing through the conscious.

Ernest Jones

Ernest Jones: Helping Other Psychoanalysts

In 1925, Jones extended an invitation to Melanie Klein to deliver a series of lectures in London, subsequently proposing that she permanently relocate to England and join the British Society. Accepting this offer, Klein garnered a significant following over the ensuing years.

However, Jones' endorsement of Klein was not universally embraced. Amidst the rise of Hitler's influence in Germany and beyond, Jones played a crucial role in aiding numerous Viennese and other continental analysts, many of whom were Jewish, in resettling in England. In 1938, following the Anschluss, Jones personally traveled to Vienna to facilitate Sigmund and Anna Freud's escape to Britain.

Conflict with Freud

As a substantial number of European analysts sought refuge in England, ideological clashes intensified between the Kleinians and Freudians, leading to a deep divide within the British Society.

Jones consistently aligned himself with Klein's perspectives, contrary to those of Anna Freud and her associates. This unwavering support led Sigmund Freud to accuse Jones of attempting to undermine his daughter's work.

The escalating animosity between the Freudian and Kleinian factions culminated in the Controversial Discussions in the early 1940s.

Jones, whose health was deteriorating, played a diminishing role in these heated debates. Spending more time at his home in Sussex, he resigned from the Presidency of the British Society in 1944.

Eventually, in the same year, a compromise was reached among the conflicting groups within the Society. This compromise allowed Freudians, Kleinians, and a third group of "Independents" to administer and conduct their individual training programs, marking a resolution to the prolonged intellectual and ideological conflicts.


In conclusion, Ernest Jones's has left a significant mark on the field of psychoanalysis. His multifaceted contributions, encompassing theoretical advancements, organizational leadership, and his role as a mediator during times of intellectual conflict, underscore his pivotal role in the evolution of psychoanalysis. His enduring impact resonates not only in the pages of psychoanalytic literature but also in the institutional foundations that continue to shape the practice and study of psychoanalysis today.