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Individual differences |
Methods | Statistics | Clinical | Educational | Industrial | Professional items | World psychology |
The Society for Psychical Research (SPR) was founded in 1882 by three dons of Trinity College, Cambridge, Edmund Gurney, Frederic William Henry Myers, and Henry Sidgwick, because of their interest in spiritualism.
The Society has a membership of 5,500 and an average revenue of 5.2 million pounds per year.Its headquarters is in Marloes Road, London.
The Society holds no corporate opinions: all opinions expressed are those of the individual members. It publishes the quarterly Journal of The Society for Psychical Research and irregular Proceedings, and holds an annual conference.
Its purpose was to encourage scientific research into psychic or paranormal phenomena in order to establish their truth. Research was initially aimed at six areas: telepathy, mesmerism and similar phenomena, mediums, apparitions, physical phenomena associated with séances and, finally, the history of all these phenomena. The Society is run by a President and a Council of twenty people. The organisation is divided between London and Cambridge, the London headquarters were initially at 14 Dean's Yard. An American branch of the Society was formed in 1885 as the ASPR, becoming an affiliate of the original SPR in 1890. Famous supporters of the society have included Alfred Lord Tennyson, Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, Carl Jung, J. B. Rhine and Arthur Conan Doyle (who was shamefully duped on at least one occasion by tricksters).
The Society was especially active in the thirty years after it was founded, gaining fame for the Hodgson Report debunking Madame Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society in 1884. In 1997 Vernon Harrison, a member of the SPR, published an examination of the Hodgson Report. According to Harrison's examination, the Hodgson Report is not a scientific study, it "is flawed and untrustworthy" and "should be read with great caution, if not disregarded." (Harrison 1997) He concluded that Hodgson's case against Madame H. P. Blavatsky is not proven and stated:
- I cannot exonerate the SPR committee from blame for publishing this thoroughly bad report. They seem to have done little more than rubber-stamp Hodgson's opinions; and no serious attempt was made to check his findings or even to read his report critically. If they had done so (...) the case would have been referred back for further study. Madame H. P. Blavatsky was the most important occultist ever to appear before the SPR for investigation; and never was opportunity so wasted. (Harrison 1997)
Most initial members were spiritualists but there was a core of 'professional' investigators - the Sidgwick Group, headed by Henry Sidgwick, a formation pre-dating the SPR by eight years. The Society was wracked by internal strife, a large part of the membership (the Spiritists) leaving as early as 1887 in opposition to the approach taken by the so-called intellectuals.
|The presidents of the Society for Psychical Research|
|1882-1884||Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900), philosopher|
|1885-1887||Balfour Stewart (1827-1887), physicist|
|1888-1892||Henry Sidgwick (→ 1882)|
|1893||Arthur Balfour (1848-1930), later prime minister, originator of the well known Balfour Declaration|
|1894-1895||William James (1842-1910) American psychologist and philosopher|
|1896-1897||Sir William Crookes (1832-1919), physicist and chemicist|
|1900||Frederick William Henry Myers (1843-1901), philologist and philosopher|
|1901-1903||Sir Oliver Lodge (1851; †1940), physicist|
|1904||Sir William Fletcher Barrett (1845-1926), physicist|
|1905||Charles Richet (1850; †1935), French Physiologist und Nobel Prize winner|
|1906-1907||Gerald Balfour (1853-1945), politician|
|1908-1909||Eleanor Sidgwick (1845-1936), parapsychologist|
|1910||Henry Arthur Smith (1848-), Anwalt|
|1911||Andrew Lang (1844-1912)|
|1912||W. Boyd Carpenter (1841-1918), Bischof|
|1913||Henri Bergson (1859-1941) French philosopher; Nobel Prize for literatur 1927.|
|1914||Ferdinand Canning Scott Schiller (1864-1937), philosopher|
|1915-1916||George Gilbert Aime Murray (1866-1957), philologist|
|1917-1918||Lawrence Pearsall Jacks (1860-1955), professor of philosophy in Oxford|
|1919||John Strutt, 3rd Baron Rayleigh (1842-1919), physicist, Nobel Prize 1904|
|1920-1921||William McDougall (1871-1938), psychologist|
|1922||Thomas Walter Mitchell (1869; †1944), editor of the British journal of medical psychology|
|1923||Camille Flammarion (1842-1925), französischer Astronom|
|1924-1925||John George Piddington (1869-1952), businessman|
|1926-1927||Hans Driesch (1867-1941), German biologist and natural philosopher|
|1928-1929||Sir Lawrence Jones (1885-)|
|1930-1931||Walter Franklin Prince (1863-1934), gründete 1925 die Boston SPR|
|1932||Eleanor Sidgwick (→ 1908) und Oliver Lodge (→ 1901)|
|1933-1934||Edith Lyttelton (1865-1948), playwrite|
|1935-1936||Charlie Dunbar Broad (1887-1971), philosopher|
|1937-1938||John Strutt, 3rd Baron Rayleigh (→ 1919)|
|1939-1941||Henri Haberley Price (1899-)|
|1942-1944||Robert Henry Thouless (1894-), psychologist|
|1945-1946||George Tyrell (*1879; †1952), mathematician|
|1947-1948||William Henry Salter (1880-), lawyer|
|1949||Gardner Murphy (1895-1979), psychologist|
|1950-1951||Samuel George Soal (1889-1975), mathematician|
|1952||George Murray (→ 1915)|
|1953-1955||Frederick Stratton (1881-), astrophysicist, professor in Cambridge|
|1956-1958||Guy William Lambert (1889-), Diplomat|
|1958-1960||Charlie Dunbar Broad (→ 1935)|
|1960-1961||Henri Habberley Price (→ 1939)|
|1960-1963||Eric Robertson Dodds (1893-), professor of Greek studies in Birmingham and Oxford|
|1963-1965||Donald James West (1924-), psychiatrist and criminologist|
|1965-1969||Sir Alister Hardy (1896-1985), zoologist|
|1970||W. A. H. Rushton (1901-), physiologist, professor in Cambridge|
|1971-1974||Clement William Kennedy Mundle (1916-), philosopher|
|1974-1976||John Beloff (1920-2006), psychologist at the University of Edinburgh|
|1976-1979||Arthur J. Ellison (-2000)|
|1980||Joseph Banks Rhine (1895-1980)|
|1980||Louisa Ella Rhine (1891-)|
|1981-1983||Arthur J. Ellison (→ 1976)|
|1993-1995||Archie Roy, professor of astronomy in Glasgow, founded the Scottish SPR in 1987|
|1996-1999||David Fontana, professor of psychology at Cardiff University|
|1999-2004||Bernard Carr, professor of mathematics and astronomy at London University|
|2004-||John Poynton, Biologist|
Remark concernng the persons in italics: Eleanor Sidgwick was the wife of Henry Sidgwick and the sister of both Arthur Balfour and Gerald Balfour.
The Society still exists and states its principal aim as "understanding events and abilities commonly described as 'psychic' or 'paranormal' by promoting and supporting important research in this area." Of its initial aims, the most successful has been the gathering of data relating to the history of the paranormal - the SPR has built up an extensive library and archive, part of which is held at the University of Cambridge. The Journal (usually abbreviated JSPR) is peer reviewed and respected in the field of parapsychology.
The Society still has many well known figures among its members, including parapsychologists Dr.Susan Blackmore, Ciarán O' Keeffe, and Louie Savva. Investigators of spontaneous phenomena (hauntings, etc.) include Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair who are best known for the Enfield Poltergeist.
- SPR home page
- The Society for Psychical Research Scandal
- The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Paranormal Claims
- The Need for Responsibility in Parapsychology: My Sixty Years in Psychical Research by Eric Dingwall, a history and evaluationde:Society for Psychical Research
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