Kilner, Walter J(ohn) (1847–1920)
British physician who first studied the phenomenon of the
human aura and its changes in appearance during sickness and
health. Kilner was born on May 23, 1847, at Bury St. Edmunds,
Suffolk, England. He was educated at Bury St. Edmunds Grammar
School and St. John’s College, Cambridge University, and
was a medical student at St. Thomas’s Hospital, London. In
June 1879 he took charge of electrotherapy at St. Thomas’s
Hospital. In 1883 he became a member of the Royal College
of Physicians, then opened a private practice as a physician in
Ladbroke Grove, London.
Kilner took a scientific interest in the aura, believed to be a
kind of radiating luminous cloud surrounding individuals, usually
perceived only by clairvoyants. Kilner’s interest was inspired
in part by the work of Baron von Reichenbach, who
claimed to perceive auras around the poles of magnets and
around human hands.
In 1908 Kilner said he believed that the human aura might
be made visible if viewed through a suitable light filter. He experimented
with dicyanin, a coal tar derivative, and after careful
study reported his findings in his book The Human Atmosphere
(1911). This book was the first to approach the study of
the human aura as scientific fact instead of questionable psychic
phenomenon. The revised edition of Kilner’s book was published
in 1920, and some medical men endorsed his findings,
although the theories were very unconventional for his time.
Kilner died later that year, on June 12.
After Kilner’s death, his findings were endorsed by the experimenter
Oscar Bagnall in his book The Origin and Properties
of the Human Aura (1937). A special photographic technique has
since been devised by which it is claimed that the aura can be
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Kilner, Walter J. The Human Atmosphere. London, 1911. Reprinted
as The Human Aura. New Hyde Park, N.Y. University
Books, 1965.

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