Jones was born in 1879 in Gowerton, a village just outside Swansea in southern Wales. He studied medicine and obstetrics at Cardiff University and University College London, and went on to specialize in neurology. He first encountered the work of Freud in 1905, and was deeply impressed by his attention to and understanding of the patient’s inner reality. Jones and Freud met for the first time in 1908, and became colleagues.
Finding British society resistant to Freudian ideas and practice, Jones spent several years in Canada and the US, among other things co-founding the American Psychoanalytic Association. Returning to London in 1913, by the end of 1919 Jones had founded the British Psychoanalytical Society, which seemed to attest to a huge shift in attitudes toward the study and treatment of both the “normal” and pathological mind. He was president of the British Society from its inception until 1944, a reign of 25 years. Jones was president of the International Psychoanalytic Association twice, and he set up the International Journal of Psychoanalysis. He was also, famously, Freud’s first official biographer.
As such an inestimably important figure in British and international psychoanalysis, Jones’ personal and professional support of Melanie Klein was invaluable. He played a crucial role in Klein’s initial acceptance by the British Society, and she was to acknowledge repeatedly the importance of his support of her career.
Jones died in 1958, at the age of 79.