distinguished physicist and chemist. Discovered the element thallium.
Elected fellow of the Royal Society in 1863, Royal Gold Medal 1875, Davy
Medal 1888, Sir Joseph Copley Medal 1904, knighted in 1897 and the Order
of Merit in 1910. Invented the radiometer, developed the Crookes tube, invented the cathode-ray tube, pioneered research into radiation effects, contributed to photography, wireless telegraphy, electricity and spectroscopy. President
at different times of the Royal Society, the Chemical Society, the Institution of Electrical Engineers, the Society of Chemical Industry, the Society for Psychical Research
(from 1896-1899) and the British Association. Founder of the Chemical
News, editor of Quarterly Journal of Science.
First began his
investigations into 'psychic' phenomena in 1869 as a hostile doubter. In
his article, 'Spiritualism Viewed by the Light of Modern
Science' he declared:
"The increased employment of scientific methods will
produce a race of observers who will drive the worthless residuum of
spiritualism hence into the unknown limbo of magic and necromancy."
The Press received the announcement with jubilation. It was taken for
granted that a scientific man of Crookes' caliber would expose the whole
thing as fraud and simple humbug. Foregone conclusions have never been
met with more bitter disappointment. Crookes' experiments with Daniel D.
Home demonstrated the existence of a 'psychic force' wholly ignored by
Crookes later stated:
"Of all persons endowed with a
powerful development of this Psychic Force, Mr. Daniel Dunglas Home is
the most remarkable and it is mainly owing to the many opportunities I
have had of carrying on my investigation in his presence that I am
enabled to affirm so conclusively the existence of this force."
attack on Crookes' character and scientific credentials ensured. Dr.
Carpenter, a bitter 'sceptic', anonymously accused Crookes of being a
'specialist of specialists'! Frank Podmore said:
candour of Mr. Crookes' article in the Quarterly Journal of Science, and
their judicial tone, present a striking contrast to the inaccuracy,
spiteful depreciation, under the shield of anonymity, of other men's
work and the grotesque self-assertion which disfigured Dr. Carpenter's
But even greater things were to amaze his colleagues:
the case of Florence Cook and the 'spirit' entity Katie King. Crookes
began by establishing whether Cook and King were two separate entities;
this he proved beyond all reasonable doubt. Cook and King were seen
together by Crookes and his co-investigators on many occasions, even
under the full blaze of electric light. A total of forty four
photographs were subsequently taken, clearly demonstrating the physical
differences between the medium and the 'spirit' entity.
Crookes had to face the full wrath of ridicule and hostility of his
critics. Eventually Crookes abandoned his attempt to convince his
scientific brethren. But he never withdrew or modified his opinions
during his long subsequent scientific career.
In an interview published
in The International Psychic Gazette in 1917 he said:
never had any occasion to change my mind on the subject. I am perfectly
satisfied with what I have said in earlier days. It is quite true that a
connection has been set up between this world and the next".
Source (with minor modifications): An Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science by Nandor Fodor (1934).
Books by William Crookes on this website:
Researches into the Phenomena of Modern Spiritualism