Price, George R(obert) (1922–1975)
Chemist and science writer, who published articles critical
of parapsychology findings. Price was born on October 16,
1922, in Scarsdale, New York. He studied at Harvard UniversiThe
Prenestine Lots Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
1238
ty and at the University of Chicago (B.S., 1943; Ph.D. chemistry,
1946). He worked on the Manhattan Project during the last
days of World War II and then from 1946 to 1957 worked at
various teaching and industrial positions. In 1957, he became
a full-time writer of material on science, primarily chemistry
and biology.
In August 1955, Price started a controversy by publishing an
article in Science magazine (the periodical of the American Association
for the Advancement of Science). He dismissed
parapsychologists (then attempting to gain admittance to the
circles of the AAAS) with the observation that their positive results
were ‘‘dependent on clerical and statistical errors and unintentional
use of sensory clues’’ and claimed that ‘‘all extrachance
results not so explicable are dependent on deliberate
fraud or mildly abnormal mental conditions.’’
This article was quoted by newspapers and journals. It suggested
various fraudulent methods used to show such results as
those claimed by parapsychologists like J. B. Rhine and S. B.
Soal, and stated their claims were not acceptable as proof of extrasensory
perception. Rhine and Soal responded to these criticisms
in the Newsletter of the Parapsychology Foundation (October
1955), which also published a further communication from
Price.
It is believed the skeptical attitude of Price represented a
backlash against parapsychology by orthodox scientists of the
time, particularly by members of the American Association for
the Advancement of Science, a body having refused to permit
affiliation to the Parapsychological Association. Reportedly
the skeptical and hostile criticisms stimulated parapsychologists
to develop methods of testing extrasensory perception that
could not be faulted by their colleagues in other fields on simple
methodological grounds. An indication of the acceptability
of parapsychology as a recognized scientific discipline was the
acceptance of the Parapsychological Society into membership
of the AAAS in December 1969.
In 1972, Price changed his mind about what he had written
in the 1950s. In an article in Science, he apologized to Soal and
Rhine for treating them unfairly. Shortly afterward, it was discovered
that Price had been right about Soal, who had faked
the data he had presented.
Sources
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Markwick, Betty. ‘‘The Soal-Goldney Experiments with
Basil Shackleton New Evidence of Data Manipulation.’’ Proceedings
of the Society for Psychical Research 56 (1978).
Pleasants, Helene, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology.
New York Helix Press, 1964.
Price, George R. ‘‘Apology to Rhine and Soal.’’ Science 175
(1972).
———. ‘‘Science and the Supernatural.’’ Science 122 (August
26, 1955).
———. ‘‘Where Is the Definitive Experiment’’ Science (January
6, 1956).