Key figures from the past
Hugh Crichton-Miller (1877 to 1959)
Crichton-Miller (5 February 1877 to 1 January 1959), was born in Genoa, the son of a Scottish minister, and was an only son with five sisters. He grew up to be tri-lingual, speaking English Italian and French. At the age of twelve, he travelled across Europe by himself to take up a place at a boarding school in Edinburgh. He went to Edinburgh University in 1894, reading arts as well as medicine. He received his MA in 1898 and his MB, ChB from Edinburgh University in 1900, choosing hypnotism as the subject for his MD thesis. Read more
JR Rees (1890 to 1969)
JR Rees was the second Director of the Tavistock Clinic. He was one of the seven founding staff members and oversaw the growth of the Clinic from a small outpatient service into a large clinic and significant educational establishment.
Rees was born in Leicester, grew up in Leeds and like Hugh Crichton-Miller was the son of a minister. Rees went to King’s College, Cambridge, where he read the Natural Sciences Tripos and Medicine. Read more
JD ‘Jock’ Sutherland (1905 to 1991)
Jock Sutherland joined the Tavistock Clinic in 1946 and became Medical Director in 1947, overseeing our transition into the NHS in 1948 and one of the most dynamic phases of the clinic’s history.
Although Jock Sutherland was new into the Tavi he had worked with JR Rees and other Tavi staff as part of the ‘invisible college’ throughout the war. Jock Sutherland became a key member of the group that set up an experimental War Officer Selection Board (WOSB) in Edinburgh. He worked alongside Wilfred Bion, Eric Trist, and Eric Wittkower to develop new methods selecting officers. The radical solution put forward by Wilfred Bion was the ‘Leaderless Group Project’. Read more
Bob Gosling (1920 to 2000)
From 1968 to 1979 Bob Gosling led the Tavistock Clinic as Chair of the Professional Committee, during a period of significant expansion for the Tavistock Clinic, both in the extent and range of work of the Clinic.
Born in Birmingham, he obtained a BSc in physiology and received a Rockefeller scholarship to do his clinical training at Cornell. However, after six months in the US he developed tuberculosis, which incapacitated him for four years. The experience, however, gave him the insight that whether someone got better or worse depended to a significant degree on their emotional state and led him to an interest in psychoanalysis. Read more
Wilfred Bion (1897 to 1979)
Wilfred Bion and John Bowlby are the two most famous members of Tavistock Clinic staff. Bion at the Tavi is most famous for his group work but this was actually was just one small brief strand of his work.
Wilfred Bion was born in the Punjab and grew up in an Anglo-Indian family. His father was a ‘good shot’ who went big game hunting with King George V and Bion was wrapped in the values of colonialism. Wilfred Bion was sent to England for his formal education. He found that ‘the cruelty embedded in the school system’ turned him into an ‘accomplished liar’ who could slip neatly into the different codes of behaviour of the establishment. Read more
Esther Bick (1902 to 1983)
Esther Bick was intensely passionate about her work, which she pursued with a single minded focus and dedication. Her best-known contribution to psychoanalysis was her development of infant observation, which still underpins child psychotherapy training not just at the Tavi but around the world.
Esther Bick was born Esteza Lifsza Wander in Galicia in the then Austro-Hungarian empire. She was born into an orthodox Jewish family and her unusual intelligence and energy led her to study psychology under Charlotte Bühler in Vienna, where she completed her PhD in 1935. Read more
John Bowlby (1907 to 1990)
John Bowlby was a psychiatrist and paediatrician whose work on the bond between mother and child led to his development of ‘Attachment Theory’, which has profoundly influenced not just psychotherapy, but parenting styles. Bowlby joined the Tavistock Clinic in 1946 and worked here until his retirement in 1972.
Bowlby's father was Major General Sir Anthony Bowlby, 1st Baronet, who was surgeon to King Edward VII’s household. Bowlby himself studied medicine at Trinity College, Cambridge, and UCL. On qualification he specialised in psychiatry, child psychiatry and psychoanalysis. From 1933-35 he worked as a clinical assistant at the Maudsley Hospital and then in 1936 he joined the staff of the London Child Guidance Clinic where he stayed until 1940. Read more
Michael Balint (1896 to 1970)
Michael Balint was a well-known psychoanalyst whose analysis of the doctor–patient relationship and use of group therapy made him an internationally acclaimed figure.
Michael Balint was born Mihály Maurice Bergmann in Budapest, Hungary on 3 December 1896 and was the first of two children of a Jewish GP. In 1914 he began studying medicine at the Semmelweiss University of Budapest, but was called up in the First World War, serving in Russia and then the Dolomites, returning home injured in 1916. He completed his medical studies in Budapest in 1918 and also changed his name at around this time. Read more
James (1911-1988) and Joyce (1919- 2013) Robertson are best known for their profoundly influential film work. Their work documenting the impact of separating children from their parents, combined with several decades campaigning, changed the way that children’s departments operated.
James Robertson was from a Glaswegian working class family. He left school at 14 to work in a steelworks, but from around 1930 he started attending part-time courses at Glasgow University. In 1939 he went to Fircroft College for the Higher Education of Working Men in Birmingham and studied the humanities. It was here that he met Joyce, his future wife and colleague. Read more
Martha Harris (1919 to 1986)
Martha Harris, or ‘Mattie’ as she was more commonly known at the Tavi, was an exceptional teacher and analyst. She was hugely important to the development and establishment of child psychotherapy in the UK and beyond, and her work was crucial to making infant observation a cornerstone of psychoanalytic education and a key to understanding both child development and primary relationships.
Martha spent her early life on her parent's farm in Beith, Scotland. When she was eight, her family moved to Sussex, where she flourished academically, going on to study English at UCL. She often credited her literary education with giving her access to the unconscious and emotional experience necessary for a career as a child psychotherapist and psychoanalyst. Read more
Mary Ainsworth (1913 to 1999)
Along with Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth was a key researcher around attachment. She is perhaps best known for her Strange Situation Test, which showed how attachment styles can vary between children. She made substantial refinements and extensions to Bowlby’s attachment theory and led to ground-breaking changes in how we think about the bond between an infant and its caregivers.
Mary was born in Ohio in 1913 and when she was five her family moved to Toronto, Canada. Aged 15, she came across William McDougall's Character and the Conduct of Life (1927) in her local library and reading this book spurred an interest in psychology and a distinguished career. Read more
Isabel Menzies Lyth (1917 to 2008)
Isabel Menzies Lyth was a distinguished psychoanalyst and social scientist; a pioneering figure in the founding group of TIHR, best known for her work on unconscious mechanisms in institutional settings.
Born and raised in Scotland, Menzies took a double first in economics and experimental psychology at St Andrews in 1939, where she became a lecturer from 1939 to 1945. During the war she became involved with the experimental War Office Selection Board, working alongside Wilfred Bion, Jock Sutherland and Eric Trist studying social dynamics in officer training. She also contributed to the Civil Resettlement Units for prisoners of war. Read more
Grace Pailthorpe (1883 to 1971)
Grace Pailthorpe had many lives. She was a surgeon during the First World War, a psychoanalyst who studied under Ernest Jones, a criminologist, a campaigner for reform, founder of the Institute for the Study and Treatment of Delinquency (the clinical wing of which became the Portman Clinic) and a surrealist artist, praised by Andre Breton and now included in the collection at Tate Modern.
Grace Pailthorpe was born on 29 July 1883 in Sutton, Surrey. Both of her parents belonged to the Plymouth Brethren, a conservative, evangelical Christian movement and she grew up in what she described as ‘an atmosphere of strictest Puritanism’. Read more
Lily Pincus (1898 to 1981)
Lily Pincus was one of the three women, along with Alison Lyons and Enid Eicholz, who founded the Family Discussion Bureau, which is now known as Tavistock Relationships.
Pincus was born in the Austro-Hungarian city of Karlsbad as Lily Lazarus. When she was five the family moved to Berlin and from 1914 to 1916 Lily trained in scientific photography in the Lettehaus. In 1918 she met Fritz Pincus and they were married in 1922, moving to Potsdam 1925. From 1931 Lily distinguished herself as an administrative secretary at the Hoffbauer Foundation Hermannswerder. During the 30s Pincuses' house became a meeting place for Paul Tillich and his circle of German intellectuals. Read more
Enid Balint (1903 to 1994)
Psychoanalyst and welfare worker, Enid Balint, was one of the three women, along with Lily Pincus and Alison Lyons, who founded the Family Discussion Bureau, now known as Tavistock Relationships.
She was born as Enid Flora Albu in London in 1903, going to Hampstead High School, Cheltenham Ladies' College and the London School of Economics, where she graduated in 1925, specialising in public administration. In 1926 she married Robert Eichholtz, a professor of philology, and became the mother of two daughters. Read more
John Byng-Hall (1937 to 2020)
John Byng-Hall (1937 to 2020) was a distinguished and pioneering family therapist who established systemic therapy at the Tavistock and Portman in the early 1970s. An associate of John Bowlby, John Byng-Hall integrated attachment theories with his own ideas of family scripts and myths into family systemic therapy. His publications and presentations earned him an international reputation as an original thinker. With Rosemary Whiffen he led the first family therapy training course in the UK at the Tavistock Clinic, until his retirement in 1997. Read More