Besterman, Theodore (Deodatus Nathaniel)
(1904–1976)
Librarian, world authority on bibliography, psychical researcher,
and member of the Theosophical Society. He was
born September 18, 1904, in Geneva, Switzerland, and was educated
at Lycée de Londres and Oxford University. In addition
to his activities in the field of psychic research, he also established
a worldwide reputation as a bibliographer. He was a special
lecturer at the London School of Librarianship (1931–38),
then worked for the Association of Special Libraries and the
Department for the Exchange of Information for UNESCO.
He devoted two decades of his life to work on Voltaire and was
editor of the Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century and the
Complete Works of Voltaire.
Besterman, who became a Theosophist as a young man,
soon combined his interests and professional credentials in
such texts as Bibliography of Annie Besant (1924), A Dictionary of
Theosophy (1927), The Mind of Annie Besant (1928), and a 1930
plea for a better relationship between the Society for Psychcical
Research (SPR) and the Theosophical Society. Theosophy
led Besterman to psychic research. He became librarian of the
SPR in 1927 and editor of the society’s Proceedings and Journal
in 1929; he also served as investigation officer. Demanding
high standards, he was critical of any sloppy work in the field.
He openly denounced Albert von Schrenck-Notzing and
Charles Richet, questioned the legitimacy of Mina Crandon
(‘‘Margery’’), and regularly called attention to the problems inherent
in human observation. His criticisms of Italian researcher
Ernesto Bozzano caused Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to resign
from the SPR.
His publications in the field of psychic research include Crystal
Gazing (1924), In the Way of Heaven (1926), Library Catalogue
of the Society for Psychical Research (1927), and Some Modern Mediums
(1930). With Sir William Barrett, he produced The Divining
Rod An Experimental and Psychological Investigation (1926).
Besterman severed his relationship with the society and with
psychic research in 1935 and enjoyed a distinguished career as
a bibliographer and editor. A final work of earlier writings was
published in 1968 as Collected Papers on the Paranormal. He died
November 11, 1976.
Sources
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Besterman, Theodore. A Bibliography of Annie Besant. London
Theosophical Society in England, 1924.
———. Collected Papers on the Paranormal. New York Garrett
Publicaions, 1968.
———. Dictionary of Theosophy. London Theosophical Publishing
House, 1927.
———. The Mind of Annie Besant. London Theosophical
Publishing House, 1927.
———. Mrs. Annie Besant A Modern Prophet. London Kegan
Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1934.
Bersterman, Theodore, and Sir William Barrett. The Divining
Rod An Experimental and Psychological Investigation. 1926.
Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y. University Books, 1968.