While studying at UCL Bion met Wilfred Trotter, another physician interested in the workings of the mind. Trotter’s Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War (1) was an important influence on Bion's interest in group mentality.
Bion’s work with traumatised soldiers during the Second World War, and his role working with Officer Selection Boards, helped form the basis of his ideas expressed later in the papers published as Experiences in Groups.
Bion is best known for the work stemming from his psychoanalysis of patients in psychotic states, by building on and expanding Klein’s concepts of projective identification and the two positions, paranoid-schizoid and depressive, in dynamic equilibrium, and by introducing the notion of Container-Contained (♀ ♂); and by elaborating a theory of thinking with emotional experience at its core. His best-known work, in addition to Experiences in Groups and other papers, are the four books of the sixties - Learning from Experience, Elements of Psycho-Analysis, Transformations, and Attention and Interpretation.
Bion considered that the development of his ideas concerning the inner world of the individual, particularly in relation to thinking and primitive unconscious phantasy, incorporated and transformed his earlier ideas about group mentality. However, he did not receive support from Melanie Klein for the latter ideas, nor for his explanation of countertransference in terms of an expanded version of Klein’s concept of projective identification.
The biography of Wilfred Bion, taken from the jacket of “Cogitations“.
“Born in India in 1897, W. R. Bion first came to England at the age of eight to receive his schooling. During the First World War he served in France as a tank commander and was awarded the DSO and the Legion of Honour. After reading history at Queen’s College, Oxford, he studied medicine at University College, London, before a growing interest in psychoanalysis led him to undergo training analyses with John Rickman and, later, Melanie Klein. During the 1940s his attention was directed to the study of group processes, his researches culminating in the publication of a series of influential papers later produced in book-form as Experiences in Groups. Abandoning his work in this field in favour of psychoanalytic practice, he subsequently rose to the position of Director of the London Clinic of Psycho-Analysis (1956-1962) and President of the British Psycho-Analytical Society (1962-1965). From 1968 he worked in Los Angeles, returning to England two months before his death in 1979.”
(From the back cover of Cogitations, edited by Francesca Bion, Karnac Books, London-New York, 1992.)