Pratt, J(oseph) G(aither) (1910–1979)
Parapsychologist and chief assistant to J. B. Rhine at Duke
University. Pratt was born on August 31, 1910, at WinstonSalem,
North Carolina. He entered Duke University during the
1920s with the idea of becoming a Methodist minister (Duke is
sponsored by the Methodist Church) but was diverted into
parapsychology and stayed to complete work with Rhine and
eventually earned his Ph.D. (B.A., 1931; M.A., 1933; Ph.D.,
1936). After graduation he became a research associate and the
assistant director at the Parapsychology Laboratory, a position
he held (except for service with the United States Navy
during World War II) until joining the Department of Psychiatry
at the University of Virginia in 1964. He remained at Virginia
until his retirement. Pratt was a charter member of the
Parapsychological Association and elected its president in
1960. He also served for many years on the editorial staff of the
Journal of Parapsychology.
Pratt took a special interest in quantitative experiments in
extrasensory perception. His early investigations at Duke University
included the Pearce-Pratt series (with Hubert E. Pearce
Jr.) and the Pratt-Woodruff series (with J. L. Woodruff.) These
ESP tests were critiqued by C. E. M. Hansel.
Pratt investigated the card-guesser Pavel Stepanek in
Prague, Czechoslovakia. Stepanek was discovered by parapsychologist
Milan Ryzl in 1961. Pratt and Ryzl collaborated on
experiments with Stepanek in Prague and Charlottesville, Virginia,
for several years.
As a parapsychologist, Pratt traveled in Europe, India,
South Africa, and the Soviet Union. He had hoped to study the
talented Russian PK subject Nina Kulagina, but did not obtain
permission, although he saw her informally in a hotel. Pratt collaborated
with H. J. Keil, Benson Herbert, and Montague Ullman
on a monograph about Kulagina, published in Proceedings
of the Society for Psychical Research, January 1976. He died
November 3, 1979, at his home near Charlottesville, Virginia.
Sources
Pratt, J. G. ‘‘A Decade of Research with a Selected Subject.’’
Proceedings of American Society for Psychical Research (1973).
———. ESP Research Today A Study of Developments in Parapsychology
Since 1960. Metuchen, N.J. Scarecrow Press, 1973.
———. On the Evaluation of Verbal Material in Parapsychology.
New York Parapsychology Foundation, 1969.
———. Parapsychology An Insider’s View of ESP. Metuchen,
N.J. Scarecrow Press, 1977.
———. The Psychic Realm. New York Random House, 1975.
Rhine, J. B., J. G. Pratt, et al. Extrasensory Perception After
Sixty Years. New York Henry Holt, 1940.