Bion, Wilfred Ruprecht
First name:
Wilfred Ruprecht
20th century
Field of expertise:
Place of birth:
Mudra (IND)
* 08.09.1897
† 08.11.1979
Biography print

British theorist of psychoanalysis, co-founder of group analysis


Wilfred Ruprecht Bion (1897-1979) was born in Mathura, India, as the son of a British colonial civil servant. During World War I, he served in the British Army’s Tank Corps. After the war, he studied history at Queen’s College, Oxford, and medicine at University College London, where he graduated in 1930. He then joined the London-based Tavistock Clinic for psychotherapeutic training – during which he treated, among others, the writer Samuel Beckett. Serving as a medical officer at Northfield Military Hospital during World War II, he developed a recruitment test for officer candidates and initiated the “Northfield Experiment”, a minimally structured group setting for treating traumatized soldiers. Bion returned to Tavistock Clinic in 1950, where he worked as a group psychotherapist and later became head of department (1952). Following his time as president of the British Psychoanalytical Society (1962-1965), he held professorships for psychotherapy in San Francisco (1968) and São Paulo (1977).


Bion’s contributions to psychoanalysis and group analysis are highly significant for treating psychosis-related disorders. He argued that the development of intra-group structures (group cohesion, maintenance of ego boundaries) reduces intra-group tensions (Bion 1961). According to him, experiential learning is a core element of effective therapy (Bion 1962). His “containment model”, a formalized representation of intrapsychic processes, is still used as a reference for the supportive aspect of the therapeutic relationship. His work is strongly influenced by McDougall, Le Bon and Freud. Bion also wrote two autobiographical reviews of his life and work: The Long Weekend (1982) and All My Sins Remembered (1985).



Anzieu, D. (1989): Beckett and Bion. In: International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 16, (2), pp. 163-170.

Bion, W. R. (1961): Experiences in groups and other papers. London: Tavistock.

Bion, W. R. (1962): Learning from experience. London: Heinemann.

Bion, W. R. (1982): The long weekend. London: Karnac Books.

Bion, W. R. (1985): All my sins remembered. Another part of life and the other side of genius. Abingdon: Fleetwood.

Karnac, H. (2008): Bion’s legacy. Bibliography of primary and secondary sources of the life, work and ideas of Wilfred Ruprecht Bion. London: Karnac Books.

Mills, J.A., Harrison, T. (2007): John Rickman, Wilfred Ruprecht Bion, and the origins of the therapeutic community. In: History of Psychology 10, (1), pp. 22-43.

Symington, J., N. Symington (1996): The clinical thinking of Wilfred Bion. London, New York: Routledge.

Robin Pape  

Photo: Unknown, Kaesar / Source: Wikimedia / [public domain].


Referencing format
Robin Pape (2015): Bion, Wilfred Ruprecht.
In: Biographisches Archiv der Psychiatrie.
(retrieved on:16.07.2024)