Rhine, J(oseph) B(anks) (1895–1980)
One of the pioneers of parapsychology and co-founder with
William McDougall of the Parapsychology Laboratory at
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. He was born on
September 29, 1895, in Juniata County, Pennsylvania. He studied
at the University of Chicago (B.S., 1922; M.S., 1923; Ph.D.,
1925) where he majored in botany. In 1920 he married Louisa
Ella Weckesser, who as Louisa Rhine, also became a noted
parapsychologist. After graduation Rhine became an instructor
in plant physiology at West Virginia University (1924–26) before
moving to Duke University where he would remain for the
rest of his active career with the department of psychology.
Rhine’s interest in parapsychology grew out of his investigations
of mediumship with Dr. Walter Franklin Prince at Harvard
University in 1926. Rhine went on to Duke University the
following year and studied psychic phenomena with William
McDougall, head of the psychology department. It was Rhine’s
training in plant physiology which gave him the idea that psychic
faculties might be tested with scientific disciplines.
With the encouragement of McDougall, Rhine commenced
a program for statistical validation of ESP (extrasensory perception),
a term he invented, working in collaboration with colleagues
on the psychology faculty, with students as subjects.
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The emphasis was first on clairvoyance and telepathy, transmitting
images from sender to receiver, and the now familiar
Zener cards, the simple symbols of cross, star, circle, square
and waves assisting statistical evaluation of tests. Later work included
experiments in psychokinesis using dice to test the
ability of the human mind to affect movement of objects at a
distance. Psychokinesis or ‘‘PK’’ has since largely displaced the
term ‘‘telekinesis’’ formerly used in psychical research. The
publication of Rhine’s monograph Extrasensory Perception by the
Boston Society for Psychic Research in 1934 was a key point
in the development of parapsychology as a scientific study, and
opinion sharply divided on the validity of the work. Duke, like
the rest of the academic world, was home to strong opposition
to parapsychology. Thus Rhine amd MacDougal were obliged
to open a separate Parapsychology Laboratory in 1935 and
seek outside financial sponsorship for research.
From 1937, Rhine launched the Journal of Parapsychology at
Duke and settled down to create the basic foundational methodology
and to generate the body of knowledge upon which
laboratory parapsychology would build. In 1957 he led in the
foundation of the Parapsychology Association. He retired
from Duke in 1965 and lost the power base that allowed him
to operate the Parapsychology Laboratory. Three years before,
in anticipation of the lack of support for parapsychology, he
began the reorganization of the endeavor he had managed for
the last three decades. He founded the Foundation for Research
on the Nature of Man, an organization to continue his
parapsychological work. The foundation established a new research
facility, the Institute for Parapsychology.
Through the years Rhine authored a set of basic texts in
parapsychology, still necessary reading for any one interested
in the field. Though he published many impressive reports, he
was repeatedly dogged by criticism that he ignored much of the
negative data he had gathered and reported only the positive.
Because of these flaws, Rhine’s work was not often taken seriously.
He died February 20, 1980, at the age of 84. Shortly before
his death he had been elected president of the Society for
Psychical Research, a recognition of his monumental contributions
to the field.
Financial support for the work at the Parapsychology Laboratory
at Duke University owed much to the generosity of
Charles E. Ozanne who made regular financial gifts to support
research. In 1960 he helped establish the Psychical Research
Foundation at Duke Station, Durham, N.C., as an independent
research center to investigate phenomena relating to survival
of human personality after death as well as other aspects of
parapsychology. Another generous donor in the field of parapsychology
was the late Chester F. Carlson, inventor of xerography,
whose financial support assisted the establishment of
the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man. Situated
at Durham, N.C., this foundation made possible the transition
from the Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University to an
independent world center for the study of parapsychology and
related fields.
Sources
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Pleasants, Helene, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology.
New York Helix Press, 1964.
Rhine, J. B. New Frontiers of the Mind. New York Farrar and
Rinehart, 1939.
———. New World of the Mind. New York William Sloane Associates,
1953.
———. The Reach of the Mind. New York William Sloane Associates,
1947.
———, ed. Progress in Parapsychology. N.p., 1971.
Rhine, J. B. et al. Parapsychology from Duke to FRNM. Durham,
N.C. Parapsychology Press, 1965.
Rhine, J. B., and R. Brier. Parapsychology Today. New York
Citadel Press, 1968.
Rhine, J. B., and J. G. Pratt. Parapsychology, Frontier Science
of the Mind. N.p., 1957.
Rhine, J. B., and J. G. Pratt, Charles E. Stuart, Burke M.
Smith, and Joseph A. Greenwood. Extrasensory Perception After
Sixty Years; a Critical Evaluation. New York Henry Holt, 1940.
Reprint, Boston Bruce Humphries, 1960