McDougall, William (1871–1938)
Professor of psychology successively at Oxford University,
Harvard University, and Duke University who made important
contributions to parapsychology. He was born June 22, 1871,
in Lancashire, England, and was educated at Owens College,
Manchester, St. Thomas Hospital, London, and Cambridge,
Oxford, and Göttingen universities. He was a fellow of St.
John’s College, Cambridge (1898; hon. fellow, 1938), a reader
at University College London, and a reader in mental philosophy
and fellow at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, before becoming
a professor at Harvard.
In 1920 he became president of the Society for Psychical
Research, and the following year became president of the
American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR). He sat on
the Scientific American Committee for the investigation of the
mediumship of ‘‘Margery’’ (Mina S. Crandon) and was a keen
but reserved investigator who took great care initially not to
commit himself to affirming the genuine occurrence of the supernormal.
McDougall later came to believe that Margery’s
phenomena were created fraudulently and joined with other
members of the ASPR to protest the organization’s public identification
with her. In 1925 he joined with others in the founding
of the Boston Society for Psychical Research.
McDougall was one of the leading psychologists of his time
and the author of numerous books. He contributed an article
on hypnotism to the eleventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica
(1910), as well as articles on hallucination, suggestion,
and trance (11th–14th editions).
His continuing interest in psychical research was a dominant
influence in the development of modern parapsychology.
He is most remembered for the period he spent as head of the
Psychology Department at Duke University (1927–38), and he
encouraged J. B. Rhine in the founding of the Parapsychology
Laboratory, from which modern research in laboratory controlled
experiments developed. He also authored a variety of
articles on parapsychology, defended the place of parapsychology
as an academic discipline, and co-edited the Journal of
Parapsychology (1937–38). He died November 28, 1938.
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
McDougall, William. Body and Mind A History and Defense of
Animism. London Methuen, 1911.
———. ‘‘The Case of Sally Beauchamp.’’ Proceedings of the
Society of Psychical Research 19–20 (1905–07).
———. ‘‘Further Observations on the ‘Margery’ Case.’’ Journal
of the American Society for Psychical Research 19 (1925).
———. ‘‘The Margery Mediumship.’’ Psyche 26 (1926).
———. Modern Materialism and Emergent Evolution. New
York D. Van Nostrand, 1929.
———. ‘‘The Need for Psychical Research.’’ Harvard Graduate
Magazine. Reprinted in ASPR Journal 17 (1923).
———. The Riddle of Life. London Methuen, 1938.
Pleasants, Helene, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology.
New York Helix Press, 1964