Skip to main content

Papers of William Ronald Dodds Fairbairn, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst.

Identifier: MSS.50100-50251

Scope and Contents

William Ronald Dodds Fairbairn, known as Ronald, was born in Edinburgh in 1889. He was educated at Merchiston Castle School and the University of Edinburgh, where he read philosophy. After graduating, Fairbairn pursued further studies at the Universities of London, Manchester, Kiel and Strasbourg, where he read divinity and Hellenic studies. Fairbairn`s academic studies were interrupted by the First World War, during which he served as a territorial in the Royal Garrison Artillery with postings to Egypt and Palestine. He saw action at the Battle of Jerusalem as part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force`s campaign, led by General Allenby.

After the war Fairbairn began his medical training undertaking an accelerated medical qualification at the University of Edinburgh, which he completed in 1923. He was assistant physician at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Mental Diseases from 1923-1924 and subsequently forged a career specialising in medial psychology. In 1924 Fairbairn began treating patients at his private practice, which he continued to do until his death in the 1960s. Throughout this period Fairbairn also treated hospitalised patients and lectured in psychology and psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh.

Fairbairn wrote numerous articles, many of which were compiled and published in "Psychoanalytic Studies of the Personality" (London, 1952), the only book he published during his lifetime.

He married, firstly, Mary Ann Gordon (1901-1952) in 1926 and, secondly, Marion Francis Mackintosh (1907-1995) in 1959. He had three surviving children, including the lawyer and politician Sir Nicholas Hardwick Fairbairn (1933-1995). Fairbairn died in Edinburgh on 31 December 1964.

Fairbairn`s papers relate mainly to his professional life, with a smaller number of records that relate to personal and family life. The records are in a variety of formats, including manuscript, typescript, notes, offprints, drawings and photographs. The records include letters of, to or concerning Fairbairn; manuscript and typescript drafts, printed proofs and offprints of articles and lectures written by Fairbairn; reviews by Fairbairn of the works of other authors; and, photographic prints and negatives primarily of Fairbairn and his family. The papers also include items that relate to Fairbairn`s own self-analysis, including dream diaries and drawings, and notes of his earliest memories.


  • Creation: 1891-1974, 1992.


Conditions Governing Access

Normal access conditions apply.

Conditions Governing Use

Normal reproduction conditions apply, subject to any copyright restrictions.


2.84 Linear metres

Language of Materials



The papers are arranged in six series.

Letters of, to or concerning William Ronald Dodds Fairbairn.

Papers of William Ronald Dodds Fairbairn relating to his development and activity as a practising psychoanalyst.

Lectures and articles of William Ronald Dodds Fairbairn.

Publications by other authors, held for reference by William Ronald Dodds Fairbairn.

Personal papers of William Ronald Dodds Fairbairn.

Photographic prints and negatives showing William Ronald Dodds Fairbairn, members of his family, and others.

Other Finding Aids

A concordance between the provisional and final numbering of the archive is available.

An on-line search portal to the combined collections of Edinburgh University Library and the National Library of Scotland relating to William Ronald Dodds Fairbairn is available. Follow the link under 'External Documents'.

Custodial History

The papers of William Ronald Dodds Fairbairn were received by NLS as three accessions, all through the same source. Acc.11258 was received on the 13 October 1995. Originally a deposit, the accession was donated to NLS in 2011. Acc.13332 was presented to NLS on the 14 May 2012. Acc.13538 was presented to NLS on 28 August 2014.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Presented, 1995, 2012 and 2014, by the family of W R D Fairbairn, through the good offices of Caro Birtles, Gloucestershire.13 October 199511258

National Library of Scotland Catalogue of Manuscripts
National Library of Scotland
12 03 2015
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Local Descriptive Rules
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the National Library of Scotland Archives and Manuscripts Division Repository

Archives and Manuscript Division
National Library of Scotland
George IV Bridge
Edinburgh EH1 1EJ
0131 623 3700