James Jackson Putnam. Source: frontispiece
to Putnam, Addresses on Psycho-Analysis.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, James Jackson Putnam (1846-1918), attended Harvard College, graduating in 1866, and Harvard Medical School, graduating in 1870. Putnam was a founding member of the American Neurological Association in 1874, becoming President in 1888. In 1906 Putnam, then a professor of neurology at Harvard, introduced psychoanalysis to Boston by publishing his (initially adverse) views on Freud . The leading paper, "Freud's method of psycho-analysis," which dealt largely with applications of the method to hysteria, appeared in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, a new journal out of Boston helmed by Dr. Morton Prince (1854-1929), a foremost medical psychologist of the day who had written to Freud as early as 1905 to invite a contribution to the Journal. (Jones 1955, Ch. "The Beginning of International Recognition,")

By 1909 regular meetings at the home of Morton Prince brought together Putnam and the young English medical psychologist Ernest Jones (1879-1958), then living in Canada. Jones quickly infected Putnam with enthusiasm for Freud's new science. In 1909 Freud, accompanied by Carl Gustav Jung and Sándor Ferenczi, visited Clark University in nearby Worcester, Massachusetts, where G. Stanley Hall (1846-1924) had invited Freud to give a series of public lectures. Hall, then president of the twenty-year old university and a professor of psychology, was also a leading experimental psychologist and specialist in adolescence. Briefly a friend to Freud's nascent movement, Hall later leaned toward the ideas of Alfred Adler, a shift that was "hurtful" to Freud (Jones 1955).

Putnam, in contrast, became a firm and lasting supporter, lecturing and advancing the new psychoanalysis, along with Ernest Jones and a few others in the US, and eventually helping to form, in 1910, the American Psychopathological Association in Washington, DC, with Freud (Vienna) elected honorary member. In May 1911, the American Psychoanalytic Association met for the first time Baltimore; its members included Putnam, Jones, Trigant Burrow (1875-1950), Adolf Meyer, and four others. Putnam attended the 3rd Congress of the International Psa. Association, at Weimar in September 1911, reading the opening paper on "The Importance of Philosophy for the Further Development of Psycho-Analysis." This paper, which emphasized his affinity for the ideas of the eighteenth-century philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), gave rise to a lively discussion, according to Jones (1955) who was also present.

In 1920 Jones edited and posthumously published Putnam's works through the newly established Psychoanalytic Publishing House or Verlag as the first volume of a wide-ranging series. Putnam has a named psychoanalytic complex associated with him, following his 1913 reference to "Griselda phantasies," later termed "Griselda complex" by Ernest Jones. Any relation to the Griselda of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales must be left for others to explore.


Jones, Ernest. The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud . Vol. II. London: Hogarth, 1955.

Putnam, J. J. Addresses on Psych-Analysis . London, Vienna, New York: The Psycho-Analytical Press, 1921. Internet Archive . Contributed by University of California Libraries. Web. 8 March 2021.

_____. J. J. Putnam. Collected Papers . Vol. 1. London & Vienna: International Psa. Verlag, 1920.

Created 8 March 2021