Born in Wales, Ernest Jones (1879-1958) studied at University College, Cardiff, before taking medical courses at University Hospital, London. In 1904 he qualified for the MD, winning a Gold Medal, and specialised in neurology, medical psychology, and psychopathology. Between 1904 and 1906, he became interested in Viennese psychopathology, studying recent publications in their original German. In 1908 he met Sigmund Freud (1856-1939; see Freud chronology) and the small circle of colleagues who gathered on Wednesday evenings in Freud’s apartment at Berggasse 19 in Vienna.

Previous to any Vienna visit, in November 1907 Jones had spent a week in Zurich with the "Little Freud Group" centred on Eugen Bleuler, (1857-1939) and the dynamic Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), who, Jones later recalled, "could be very charming" in the early stages of a relationship (Jones 1955, "The Beginnings of International Recognition"). Jones persuaded Jung to organize the first international meeting of psychoanalysts, which took place at Salzburg the following April. By this time Jones and Freud had also begun a correspondence that would last until Freud's death in 1939 (Paskauskas, ed., 1993). Their long relationship survived Freud's later ruptures with the early Viennese analysts Alfred Adler, (1870-1937) and Wilhelm Stekel (1868-1940) as well as his bitter conflict with Jung in 1912-13.

Jones presented a paper on "Rationalization in Everyday Life" at the 1908 Salzburg congress, and this early conceptualization of the cognitive handling and organizing of confusing and conflicting materials from the dynamic unconscious was immediately accepted by Freud at what was apparently the first meeting between the two men. The crucial invitation to the Freud apartment in Vienna followed, and it was there, on May 6, 1908, that Jones was introduced to future long-term colleagues Paul Federn (1871-1950) and Otto Rank (1884-1939).

In 1909, on leaving England for Canada, Jones became Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. His departure had become necessary in order to avoid a police matter occasioned by misinterpretation of his use of sexual explanations with a pubescent female patient. Between 1909 and 1913, Jones travelled frequently in North America, visiting important nascent centres of treatment of psychopathology in Baltimore, New York, and Boston. In this way he met early North American representatives of Freudian interest, such as J.J. Putnam (1846-1918). His early involvements with A.A. Brill (1874-1948), are also worth investigating, as is the possible existence of subsequent and extensive correspondence between Jones and these and other North American representatives of Freudian (as opposed to Jungian or Adlerian) psychoanalysis.

Although the outbreak of war in 1914 separated Jones from the continental analysts for four years, he continued to provide them with practical assistance. In August 1914, he helped eighteen year-old Anna Freud return to Austria after she was nearly interned in England whilst visiting relatives. Subsequently some use was made of neutral intermediaries in Holland to ship letters, parcels, food, and cigars to blockaded Vienna during the violent re-shaping of the Victorian-Edwardian social order. Later, in 1938, when the Freud family needed assistance to extricate themselves from Nazi-occupied Vienna, it would be Jones, together with Princess Marie Bonaparte (1882-1962) of the Paris Psa Society, who would render selfless assistance.

In 1918, the return of peacetime conditions saw Jones at his energetic and organizational best. He was instrumental in founding the new British Psa Society in 1919, and he played a role in the Hague International Congress (6th) of 1920 as well. He helped to establish an international publishing house for psychoanalysts, in association with the Hogarth Press in London. In 1920, he became the first editor of the highly anticipated International Journal of Psychoanalysis, a position held for the next nineteen years, occasionally assisted by Otto Rank.

More than any other individual, Jones led the struggle to make Freud’s writings accessible to the English-speaking world. After Freud's death, Jones laboured to produce the virtually definitive three-volume Life of Freud, a labour only just completed the year before Jones’s own peaceful death in rural England in 1958. Although critical outlines of Jones' life are available from Brome (1967, 1982) and Roazen (1975), Jones has yet to receive a fully satisfactory biographical treatment.


Brome, Vincent. Freud and His Early Circle: The Struggles of Psycho-Analysis. London: Heinemann, 1967.

_____. Ernest Jones: Freud’s Alter Ego. London: Caliban Books, 1982.

Jones, Ernest.The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud. 3 vols. London: Hogarth Press, 1953, 1955, 1957.

_____. "The Theory of Symbolism" [1916] in Papers on Psycho-Analysis, 5th edition. London: Bailliere, Tindall & Cox, 1948.

_____. "Anal-erotic character traits." Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 13: 261-284, (1918). Translated into German by Sigmund Freud as "Über analerotische Characterzuge" (1919).

Paskauskas, R.A. (ed). The Complete Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Ernest Jones, 1908-1939. Harvard University: Belknap Press, 1993.

Roazen, Paul. Freud and His Followers. New York: Knopf, 1975.

Last modified 9 April 2021