Balfour, Arthur James (1st Earl of Balfour)
British prime minister, classical scholar, and one of the most
brilliant and eminent students of psychical research. In 1882,
through his sister, the wife of Henry Sidgwick (first president
of the Society for Psychical Research), he became interested
in psychic phenomena and the question of survival. In 1893 he
became president of the Society for Psychical Research, serving
his term between two periods as vice-president, from 1882 to
1892 and from 1895 to 1930. (His brother, the Rt. Hon. Gerald
W. Balfour, another keen student of psychical research, was
president of the Society for Psychical Research from 1906 to
Born July 25, 1848, at Whittinghame, East Lothian, Scotland,
Balfour was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge
University (M.A.). He was awarded honorary degrees in
law and philosophy by British, American, and Polish universities.
From 1874 to 1885, he was a member of the British Parliament,
and after holding various official posts, he became prime
minister (1902–05), first lord of the admiralty (1915–16), and
foreign secretary (1916–19).
In the field of psychical research, he held many sittings with
Mrs. Willett (W. M. S. Coombe-Tennant). He died March 19,
1930, in Surrey, England. It is reported that as he lay dying, he
remarked, ‘‘I am longing to get to the other side to see what
it’s like.’’
Balfour, Arthur James. Chapters of Autobiography. London
Cassell, 1930.
———. The Foundations of Belief. 8th ed. London Longmans,
Green, 1906.
———. Science, Religions, and Reality. London Sheldon
Press, 1925.
———. Theism and Humanism. London Hodder & Stoughton,
Pleasants, Helene, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology.
New York Helix Press, 1964.
Prince, Walter Franklin. Noted Witnesses for Psychical Research.
Boston Boston Society for Psychical Research, 1928. Reprint,
New Hyde Park, N.Y. University Books, 1963.