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Roy Coupland Winn (1890–1963)

by Anne Sanders

Roy Coupland Winn was born in Newcastle, New South Wales, in 1890. He was educated at Sydney Grammar School and undertook his medical degree at the University of Sydney, graduating in 1915. His first appointment was as junior medical officer at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney. At the outbreak of war he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and was commissioned in July 1915 as a captain in the Australian Army Medical Corps, and later as a major. He served with distinction at Gallipoli and on the Somme, where he was awarded the Military Cross. At the front, he developed new treatments for trench foot and gained experience in dealing with shell shock—some observations of which were recorded in the Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services 1914–1918. He was seriously injured in the battle of Messines in 1917, requiring his evacuation to England and the amputation of his right foot. It was while he was in England that he underwent initial analysis for a nervous breakdown. He met and married his English wife, Bertha (known as Betty), in 1918.

Winn returned briefly to Australia in 1918, where he worked as junior medical resident at Sydney Hospital; however he decided to undertake further medical and psychiatric training in England. While working at University College and Maudsley hospitals, also at West London Hospital, he undertook training analysis under R. M. Riggall of the British Psychoanalytical Society to become a fully-fledged psychoanalyst. This association with the British Psychoanalytical Society and Institute would have introduced him to the founder of the Society, Ernest Jones, and the International Psychoanalytical Association, and to the various journals, publications and seminars by eminent psychoanalysts from Britain and Europe. He was accepted as a member of the British Society.

Winn returned to Sydney in 1922, where he worked at Sydney Hospital as the honorary assistant physician, surrounded by the scepticism of medically trained colleagues to his advocacy of Freudian psychoanalysis. By 1931 however, having sold his house to purchase rooms in Macquarie Street, he established himself as Australia’s first privately practising psychoanalyst. He wrote several articles on psychoanalysis for the Medical Journal of Australia, corresponded with Sigmund Freud, and studied the work of Melanie Klein, who had emigrated from Austria to London and was also a member of the British Psychoanalytical Society. Winn maintained his concern for the impact of war on soldiers’ psychology claiming that 'the trained psychoanalyst should produce more complete and lasting results because…he [sic] aims at relieving deeply buried emotions such as guilt concerning the impulse to kill'.

In 1938 Winn alerted Paul Dane in Melbourne that Ernest Jones and the International Psychoanalytical Association were desperately seeking emigration for many European analysts following Nazi Germany’s Anschluss. He worked with Dane and other supportive doctors and influential people to ensure that Dr Clara Lazar Geroe was able to emigrate from Hungary in 1940, to become Australia’s first training analyst. Winn was an active foundation board member of the Melbourne Institute for Psychoanalysis, and he provided a bequest for the founding of a second training institute, in Sydney, with Dr Andrew Peto, also Hungarian and a training analyst from the British Psychoanalytical Society. The inaugural board of directors of the Sydney Institute for Psychoanalysis, established in 1951, included doctors Winn, Peto and Siegfried Fink (a Swiss practising analyst who fled Europe in 1938), as well as Dr Geroe, one of three interstate directors.

For many years Winn had confronted the negativity of the medical establishment to psychoanalytic theory, particularly from psychiatrists. An important aim of the Sydney Institute was to forge connections within the professional psychiatric community, and to broaden its support. In the Medical Journal of Australia Winn outlined the ambitious aims of the fledgling institute: conduct courses of study for psychiatrists and other medical graduates, to foster research, to found a library, to start a child guidance clinic, to study group therapy, and to pursue the traditional psycho-analytical interest in anthropology, education, sociology and psychometrics. In short to make psycho-analysis more readily available to the general community.'

The Sydney Institute for Psychoanalysis was formally incorporated on 25 June 1951, and its first meeting was held at the Royal College of Physicians in Macquarie Street, with a lecture by Andrew Peto on 'War Neurosis'. The meeting was well attended with over 60 present, many of whom were practising psychiatrists. Roy Winn played a very active role in the affairs, and expansion, of the Sydney Institute during its first decade. He retired in 1961. He died in Concord Repatriation Hospital of a perforated gastric ulcer on 17 August 1963 and was survived by his second wife, Nell and his three children from his first marriage: Betty, Richard and Murray.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Anne Sanders, 'Winn, Roy Coupland (1890–1963)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 31 May 2024.

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