RHINE, J B (1895–1980)
Considered by many to be the father of parapsychology, the scientific study of psi and paranormal abilities such as
clairvoyance and telepathy, Rhine was co-founder of the revolutionary Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Rhine was born on 29 September 1895 in a log house in the Pennsylvania Mountains. In 1920 he married Louisa Ella
Weckesser and in 1925 he received his PhD in botany from the University of Chicago. But Rhine did not find botany fulfilling and more and more his interest turned towards the paranormal. He joined the American Society for Psychical Research and began to work for the Society’s Journal.
In 1926 Rhine moved to Boston, where he investigated spiritualist mediumship with William McDougall and Walter Franklin Prince, two prominent figures in psychical research. Initial investigation proved disappointing when a sitting with Mina Crandon turned out to be a fraud, but later sittings with Minnie Meserve Soule proved to be more encouraging. When it came to interpreting the Soule sittings there was disagreement as to whether the séance communications were genuine messages from the dead or whether they could be explained on the basis of the medium’s extrasensory perception (ESP); Rhine favoured the later interpretation.
In the fall of 1927 Rhine went to Duke University to assist McDougall in his data analysis. Encouraged by McDougall he set up a programme of statistical validation of ESP, with emphasis initially on clairvoyance and telepathy using Zener cards as test cards. The ESP experiments that followed would make the Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University world famous.
Even though Rhine believed that ESP played a key part in mediumistic communications he never lost interest in the question of survival after death. He did, however, place an emphasis on his conviction that until the limits of ESP were established the question of survival after death could not be investigated scientifically.
The parapsychology unit continued to operate at Duke University until Rhine retired in 1965 and moved it off campus to the new Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man (later the Rhine Research Center), where it is still in existence. Rhine died on 20 February 1980. His best-selling books include New Frontiers of the Mind (1937), The Reach of the Mind (1947) and New World of the Mind (1953).
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