Sydney Klein (1918-2005) was an eminent British psychoanalyst whose work covered such areas as children, psychosomatic illness, groups, manic states, perversions and delinquency, and autistic states.
He was a solid supporter of Melanie Klein’s ideas and helped develop the understanding that analysis could and should be used to reach very ill patients who might not receive help otherwise.
Sydney Klein began his career as a psychiatrist while in the army, stationed in Burma. A modest, unassuming man, he pursued his interest in psychiatry over an army career. He was a psychiatric advisor in India and Earl Mountbatten asked him to assess two Japanese generals for war crimes.
Initially he specialised in child and family psychiatry before completing his analytic training. He qualified in 1953 and then as a child analyst in 1957. He fully participated in many roles at the Institute of Psychoanalysis, including director of the children’s section of the London Clinic of Psychoanalysis.
Working with patients at the edge of ‘analysability’
He became a training and supervising analyst at the Institute of Psychoanalysis and saw patients who were often on the boundaries of analysability. For instance, he treated and described a case of severe ulcerative colitis, and a case of delinquent perversion and drug addiction.
He was interested and influential in the area of autism. He supervised Frances Tustin, with one of her first autistic patients at the Belgrave Hospital. She felt that this was a formative experience and it encouraged her ongoing work in this field. Sydney Klein himself was among the first psychoanalysts to write about autistic aspects of adult neurotic patients.
He continued his work as a child and family psychiatrist, alongside his private practice, for many years. He worked at the West Middlesex hospital and then at King’s College and Belgrave hospitals. This experience in the NHS and public sectors influenced his style and approach as a psychoanalyst.
He lectured widely in England and abroad, including Australia and Brazil.
Contribution to Kleinian thought
Sydney Klein was a main contributor to the creative growth of Kleinian theory and practice in the 1950s-70s. Many Kleinian analysts have written about the influence he had on their work and understanding, particularly on the idea of analysis as a means of transforming psychic pain.
He supervised and influenced numerous analysts who have gone on to write extensively about Kleinian ideas and theories.
As well as acknowledging his professional influence, many have spoken of Sydney Klein’s lack of interest in status and fame as well as his humour, warmth, and down-to-earth manner and outlook.
He had a very long, happy marriage to the sculptor Eileen Stewart, with whom he had four children. Eileen was responsible for some of the fine busts of analysts on display in the Institute of Psychoanalysis.
Hannah Solemani, 2016
1952 Klein, S. ‘Contribution to a symposium on group therapy’. British Journal of Medical Psychology. 24: 223-8.
1965 Klein, S. ‘Notes on a case of ulcerative colitis’. International Journal of Psychoanalysis. 46: 342-51.