Jastrow, Joseph (1863–1944)
Psychologist, educator, and author who was critical of psychoanalysis
and psychical research. In 1910 he revealed trickery
by the famous medium Eusapia Palladino during investigations
of her phenomena by a committee of American stage
magicians. Jastrow was born on January 30, 1863, in Warsaw,
Poland, the son of Marcus Jastrow (1829–1903), a noted rabbi
and Hebrew scholar. The family immigrated to the United
States when Joseph was still a child. He was educated at Rugby
Academy, the University of Pennsylvania, and John Hopkins
University.
From 1888 to 1927 he taught psychology at the University
of Wisconsin and then moved to the New School for Social Research,
where he taught until his retirement (1927–33). He
wrote a number of books on psychology and played a large part
in popularizing the subject with the general public, editing the
syndicated newspaper column ‘‘Keeping Mentally Fit’’
(1928–32) and giving regular radio broadcasts (1935–38).
Although Jastrow closely followed the work of psychical researchers,
he was intensely skeptical of the possibility of establishing
significant evidence for the existence of psychic phenomena,
especially any that implied there was life after death.
In 1926 he took part in a public symposium on the subject at
Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts, at which Sir Oliver
Lodge, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, F. Bligh Bond, and L. R. G.
Crandon spoke as individuals ‘‘convinced of the multiplicity of
psychical phenomena.’’ William McDougall, Hans Driesch,
Walter F. Prince, and F. C. S. Schiller said they were ‘‘convinced
of the rarity of genuine psychical phenomena.’’ John E.
Coover and Gardner Murphy claimed to be ‘‘unconvinced as
yet.’’ Jastrow and magician Harry Houdini spoke as individuals
‘‘antagonistic to the claims that such phenomena occur.’’
The papers were published in The Case For and Against Psychical
Belief (1927), edited by Carl Murchison.
Jastrow died at Stockbridge, Massachusetts, on January 8,
1944.
Sources
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Jastrow, Joseph. Error and Eccentricity in Human Belief. New
York Dover Publications, 1962.
———. Fact and Fable in Psychology. Boston; New York
Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1900.
———. Freud, His Dream and Sex Theories. Cleveland; New
York The World Publishing Co., 1943.
———. The House That Freud Built. New York Greenberg,
1932.
———. The Psychology of Conviction. Boston; New York
Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1918.
———. Time Relations of Mental Phenomena. N.p., 1890.
———. Wish and Wisdom. New York; London D. AppletonCentury
Co. Inc., 1935.
Jastrow, Joseph ed. The Story of Error. N.p., 1936.
Murchison, Carl, ed. The Case For and Against Psychical Belief.
Worcester, Mass., 1927.