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King, P. Rayner, E. (1993). John Bowlby (1907-1990). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 74:823-828.
    

(1993). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 74:823-828

John Bowlby (1907-1990)

Pearl King and Eric Rayner

John Bowlby died of a stroke on 2 September 1990, aged 83. He leaves his wife Ursula, four children and seven grandchildren. He was awarded the C.B.E. in 1972, among many other honours for his work, from many parts of the world. Who was John Bowlby and what was it about his work and contributions that led his colleagues and scientific co-workers to afford him such recognition? What was his background?

He was born into an upper-middle class patrician family at the time when the British Empire was at its most assured. Such a background not only assumed the presence of power and authority but often also instilled a sense of profound social responsibility. John Bowlby carried this passionately and in full measure. His grandfather, Thomas, was 'Bowlby of The Times', one of those special correspondents for that most respected and authoritative paper who brought accounts of the Empire's and the world's happenings to public attention. His father, Sir Anthony Bowlby, was President of the Royal College of Surgeons and also organised the treatment of the wounded in the First World War. He married Maria Mostyn, a granddaughter of Lord Mostyn. John was the fourth child and second son of their family of six.

It was a very stable, conservative family of rock-like reliability, but remote and even cold. The children were clever, especially in physical, logical and scientific matters, but they were not literary nor expressers of emotion. It is said that no book was to be seen in the house.

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