Donald Woods Winnicott

Winnicott, Donald Woods (1896-1971) was a British psychoanalyst and specialist in child development. He had a great influence on the development of modern psychology. Winnicott believed that play was of fundamental importance for a child to develop into a fully active and responsive individual.

Winnicott examined the relationship between mother and child. He noted the attachment that an infant develops to a cuddly toy, and saw this as an important stage in the child's early separation from the mother. Winnicott referred to such items as transitional objects. He believed that for a child to feel secure and grow in a healthy way, the mother has to provide what he called a facilitating environment that allows the child to play creatively.

Winnicott was born on April 7, 1896, in Plymouth, England. He took premedical courses at Cambridge University and studied at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London. At St. Bartholomew's, Winnicott qualified as a doctor. In 1923, he became a physician at the Queen's Hospital for Children and at Paddington Green Children's Hospital, both in London. In the 1920's, he started to study at the British Psychoanalytical Society.

For many years, Winnicott hosted a series of popular radio talks on child psychology for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). He served twice as president of the British Psychoanalytical Society, from 1956 to 1959, and from 1965 to 1968. He was also a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and president of the pediatric section of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Winnicott wrote a number of books. One of his best known is Playing and Reality (1971), completed shortly before he died. His other publications include Collected Papers: Through Paediatrics to Psycho-analysis (1958), The Child, the Family, and the Outside World (1964), and The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment (1965).

Winnicott died on Jan. 25, 1971.