Ladies of Paranormal Past: Eleanor Sidgwick

2nd March 2022. Reading Time: 2 minutes General, Ladies of paranormal past. 843 page views. 0 comments.

Eleanor Sidgwick is what would be considered one of the founding 'mothers' of paranormal research being a pivotal member in the era of psychical research.

Born in 1845, Eleanor was born into a powerful political family. She was the eldest of 8 children and she was educated at Newnham College in Cambridge. She went on to become a leading physics researcher and mathematician. Her brother Arthur was studying philosophy at Cambridge by Henry Sidgwick a well-known philosopher. They shared a common interest in mediumship and Arthur, Elenor and Henry would attend seances together. They became fast friends and even more, and Henry brought Eleanor into his world of psychical research. They married in 1876.

When the SPR was created in 1882, Professor Henry Sidgwick was one of the founders. He had her join the team as an administrator. He was the first president of the SPR. Diving in she was said to of examined over 300 eyewitness accounts of spiritual activity and attended seances and other investigations. She was quite skeptical of psychics and helped to expose fraudulent activity which was rife during this era. She wrote of many of her accounts in the SPR journal where she was the editor of the journal and proceedings from 1888 to 1897 and was a pivotal part of the organization. Some of her more notable work includes but is not limited to:

  • In 1891 she published 'On Spirit Photography' where she detailed the different fraudulent methods photographers used.
  • In 1886 she published 'Results of a Personal Investigation into the Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism' where she reviewed the research of a group she had belonged to in the 1970's. She alluded that while she was in fact open to the idea of psychical abilities in her experiences, she dealt with a lot of fraud and trickery.
  • In 1915 she wrote what was considered a book-length discussion on famed medium Leonora Piper in the SPR's journal proceedings, an effort that saw around 600 pages of analysis.

Eleanor was elected to the council of the SPR in 1901. She served as secretary from 1907 until she passed away in 1936. She became the president in 1908-1909 and again in 1932 for the 50th anniversary.

Let's not forget that while she was doing all of this, she severed as a treasurer, then Vice-Principal to Principal of Newnham's College in Cambridge from 1876 to 1910.

Eleanor Sidgwick is without a doubt one of the more pivotal members when it comes to psychical research. While during her research years she was quite skeptical due to the fraud she had exposed during her time, she later in life was said to become more convinced that there may be something to telepathy and survival after death.


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