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4 - Psychical Investigation as Experimental Physics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 September 2019

Richard Noakes
Affiliation:
University of Exeter
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Summary

Chapter Four focuses on the experimental approaches of physical-psychical scientists to psychical phenomena. It focuses on four key examples from the 1870s-1890s: William Crookes’s investigations of ‘psychic force’ ; Crookes and Cromwell Varley’s electrical tests of mediumship; the SPR’s studies of Reichenbach’s ‘od’ ; and Oliver Lodge and Benjamin Davies’s ideas about and experimental tests of telekinesis. The chapter shows the extraordinary lengths to which physical-psychical scientists went to achieve greater control over, to measure and record psychical effects, and to turn domestic seances into sites of experimental physics. The limited effectiveness of this work was partly due to perceived flaws in experimental design, a lack of suitable experimental subjects (mediums), and because physical-psychical scientists believed their professional and intellectual goals were better served by focusing experimental research on purely physical topics.

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Physics and Psychics
The Occult and the Sciences in Modern Britain
, pp. 185 - 237
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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