Lives of the fellows

Murray Archibald Jackson

b.8 December 1922 d.4 July 2011
MB BS Sydney(1945) MRCP(1949) DPM(1951) FRCPsych(1972) FRCP(1973)

Murray Jackson was a consultant psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital, London. Born in Sydney, Australia (he called himself a ‘Bondi Beach boy’), his father was Samuel Henry Jackson, a one-time deputy director of the security service who then served in Japan as well as being Australian representative on the United Nations temporary commission on Korea. His mother Alice Mabel née Archibald was a journalist who became the first female editor of The Australian Women’s Weekly and was the daughter of William Archibald, a teacher. Educated at Cranbrook School in Sydney, he studied medicine at Sydney University and Sydney Hospital.

Qualifying in 1945, he did house jobs at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney before serving as a medical officer in the Australian army of occupation in Japan. Following a period of medical research in the USA, he moved to the UK in 1947 to train in his chosen specialty, psychiatry. From 1949 to 1953, he was registrar, then senior registrar, at the Bethlem Royal and Maudsley hospitals. He was appointed consultant psychiatrist and medical director at the South Essex Child Guidance Clinic in 1956 and stayed there for two years. In 1957 he also became assistant psychiatrist (psychotherapy) at the Middlesex and Hammersmith hospitals. Eight years later, in 1965, he was appointed consultant psychiatrist (psychotherapy) at King’s College Hospital and, in 1972, he was also given a consultant post at the Maudsley.

While training in the USA he had been very influenced by the work of American psychoanalyists in the field of psychosomatics, especially George Engle and John Roman at the Rochester School of Medicine and Franz Alexander in Chicago. This sparked a lifelong interest in how psychological factors could contribute to certain physical illnesses particularly in the regard to gastroenterological disorders. While he was at the Maudsley he directed a 10 bed in-patient unit with Robert Cawley [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, p.100] where psychoanalytic principles were applied to the understanding and treatment of severe mental illness. He believed in the integration of pharmaceutical, psychological and innovative nursing approaches and generations of nurses, psychiatrists and social workers reaped the benefit of watching through a one way screen as he interviewed patients at length, often successfully making some sort of sense of what appeared to be very disturbed behaviour. The story is told that, during one such interview, a young women suffering from manic depression tried to exit the room yelling ‘It’s all over, Dr Jackson’ and throwing a cup of tea over him. Wiping himself down, he replied, ‘I think you are right. It is all over Dr Jackson’. Gently he managed to calm her down and continue their conversation.

When he retired from the NHS in 1987 the unit at the Maudsley was no longer run in the same way, but he continued to teach and found his ideas well received at a number of centres in Scandinavia over the next 15 years. He also continued his private practice, focusing on the less borderline and psychotic cases, until 1991. A kind, humourous and compassionate man, it was said of him that ‘he maintained his passion for looking for meaning in even the most apparently incomprehensible psychotic experiences’.

He published, with Paul Williams, Unimaginable storms: a search for meaning in psychosis (London, Karnac, 1994) a book of edited transcripts of some of the audio taped interviews he had with patients over the years and it proved a valuable resource for many professionals seeking a contemporary psychoanalytic understanding of psychosis. His later work, Weathering the storms: psychotherapy for psychosis (London, Karnac, 2001) was based on his experiences in Scandinavia and sought to illustrate how selected psychotic patients can benefit from non-intensive psychoanalytic psychotherapy conducted by experience professionals. When he died he was about to finish a book on the subject of creativity and destruction in the personalities of Van Gogh, Nijinsky, Saramago and John Nash.

Chairman of the medical section of the British Psychological Society in 1960, he was also an associate member of the British Psychoanalytic Society and was awarded the life service award of the International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis in 1994.

In his youth he had been surf life saving instructor and took part in a Transatlantic Atlantic Ocean race in 1949. Other interests were skiing, tennis and listening to music.

In 1954 while he was working as a psychiatric registrar at the Middlesex Hospital, he hurt his neck in a sailing accident and, by chance, was introduced to the sister of the young physiotherapist who was treating him. Her name was Cynthia Rosamund Franklin née Smith and she was the daughter of Charles Franklin Smith, a mining engineer. They married in 1957 and had three daughters. When he died from heart failure at the home in St Andre-de-Roquepertuis, France where he lived for the last 20 years of his life, he was survived by Cynthia, their daughters (one of whom became a GP) and four grandchildren.

RCP editor

[BMJ 2012 344 2054; Sydney Morning Herald; International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis - all accessed 23 September 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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