PROFESSOR AT Physics at the Royal College of Science for Dublin from
1873-1910 and one of the distinguished early psychical researchers. In
fact, it was Barrett who first initiated the founding of both the American
and British Society for Psychical Research. Studies in mesmeric trance
aroused his curiosity for the physical phenomena of spiritualism.
He began his first investigations in 1874. Two years later he submitted a
paper on Some Phenomena Associated with Abnormal Conditions of Mind to
the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The Biological
Committee refused it and the Anthropological Sub-section only accepted it
on the casting vote of the chairman, Dr. Alfred Russel
Wallace. The paper
contained an exposition of the professor's experiments in telepathy, the
existence of which he considered proved, holding that the method of
communication is probably explainable by some form of nervous induction.
As regards to physical phenomena he was inclined to attribute the more
marvellous ones (levitation, fire test) to hallucination. But he declared
that he himself witnessed raps in broad daylight, out-of-doors under
conditions which made trickery impossible.
In conclusion he urges the appointment of a committee for mesmerism and
spiritualism. Sir William Crookes, Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace,
and Col. Lane Fox seconded the motion but - probably owing to the
sensation produced by the Lankester Slade scandal - no action was taken.
In January, 1882, Barrett called a conference in the offices of the
British National Association of Spiritualists. At this conference the
Society for Psychical Research was born. During a visit to the United
States in 1885 he gave the impetus to the foundation of the American SPR.
His theory of hallucination as regards the greater physical phenomena was
soon cast aside. He found mediums in personal friends who were above
suspicion and he could carry out experiments in daylight. Miss Florrie
Clark and the Lauders, a professional photographer of Dublin and his
niece, were mainly instrumental in convincing him of the error of his
Source (with minor modifications):
An Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science by Nandor Fodor (1934).
Articles by William Barrett on this website:
Human Personality: The Subliminal Self
Psychology of Trance Phenomena
Some Reminiscences of Fifty Years' Psychical Research
Suggestions for Investigators in Conducting Psychical Experiments
Automatic Writing: The Evidence for Identity
Further Evidence for Survival After Death
Evidence of Identity in the Discarnate
Abroad for Survival
Books by William Barrett on this website:
Death-Bed Visions - The Psychical Experiences of the Dying