3 Jan 2020

Science and Spirits

Carlos S Alvarado. Charles Richet: A Nobel Prize Winning Scientist's Exploration of Psychic Phenomena Paperback. White Crow Books (December 2019)
Charles Richet (1850-1935), the distinguished French physiologist who won a Nobel Prize for his work on anaphylaxis, was a renaissance man. In addition to physiology he wrote poetry and plays and took an interest in many topics including pacifism, eugenics, philosophy, psychology and psychical research, which he referred to as metapsychics--the subject of this book. Richet, in his role of psychical researcher, investigated ESP, mental and physical mediumship, survival of death and hypnosis. While never publicly accepting survival and communication with discarnate entities, he became fully immersed in the phenomena and wrote in a letter to British physicist, Oliver Lodge, who had accepted it, "Without being resolutely spiritist in the sense of Conan Doyle and Allan Kardec, I gradually get closer to your ideas. I say to you--which is absolutely true--that your deep and scientific conviction had great influence, a very great influence."

Chapters include Richet's ESP experiments where he used statistical evaluation in a bid to establish differences between scientific and non-scientific approaches to the subject--a novelty at the time. Also discussed is his defense of psychical research and a commentary on his celebrated and influential book Traité de Métapsychique (Thirty Years of Psychical Research). The book has an extensive notes section and appendices, which contain Richet's observations about mediums Leonora Piper and Marthe Béraud, his use of the term "ectoplasm," and a reprint of his essay characterizing metapsychics as a science.