Taylor, John (Gerald) (1931– )
Professor of applied mathematics at King’s College, London,
England, who was the first British scientist to investigate
the phenomena of Uri Geller. Taylor was born on August 18,
1931, in Hayes, Kent. He won his way into Christ’s College,
Cambridge at age 16; at 18 he enrolled at Mid-Essex Technical
College, where he took his B.Sc. in general science. He completed
a three-year mathematics degree course in two years at
Cambridge and passed with first class honors. His academic career
has included visiting professorships in the United States
as well as being Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University
of Southampton and a post at King’s College, London.
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Taylor, John (Gerald)
1535
When Uri Geller visited Britain in 1974, Taylor conducted
scientific tests of Geller’s feats of metal bending and interference
with a Geiger counter. Taylor also experimented with
some of the children and adults who manifested paranormal
abilities after seeing Uri Geller’s appearances on British television
programs. Taylor’s interest in such phenomena was not
only in its scientific validation, but also in investigation of the
way in which such phenomena take place and the nature of the
forces involved. He suggested the phenomena may be some
low-frequency electromagnetic effect generated by human beings.
Through the 1970s Taylor was regarded as fully endorsing
the paranormal metal bending of Uri Geller, but gradually has
made more guarded statements; then in 1980 he largely retracted
his support for Geller’s paranormal talents. In 1974 he
noted, ‘‘The Geller effect—of metal-bending—is clearly not
brought about by fraud. It is so exceptional it presents a crucial
challenge to modern science and could even destroy the latter
if no explanation became available.’’ Taylor then spent three
years of careful investigation of such phenomena as psychokinesis,
metal bending, and dowsing, but could not discover any
reasonable scientific explanation or validation that satisfied
him. He was particularly concerned to establish whether there
is an electromagnetic basis for such phenomena. After failing
to find this he did not believe that there was any other explanation
that would suffice. Most of his experiments under laboratory
conditions were negative; this left him in a skeptical position
regarding the validity of claimed phenomena.
In contrast to the endorsement in his first book on psi, Superminds,
he published a paper expressing his doubts in a paper
in Nature (November 2, 1978) titled ‘‘Can Electromagnetism
Account for Extra-sensory Phenomena’’ He followed this with
his book Science and the Supernatural (1980) in which he expressed
complete skepticism about every aspect of the paranormal.
In his final chapter he stated ‘‘We have searched for the
supernatural and not found it. In the main, only poor experimentation
[including his own], shoddy theory, and human gullibility
have been encountered.’’
Taylor’s new position seems to stem from his failure to find
an electromagnetic explanation for paranormal phenomena.
In his new book he stated ‘‘We therefore have to accept that
when science faces up to the supernatural, it is a case of ‘electromagnetism
or bust.’ ’’ In contrast, John Hasted, another British
scientist who has tested Uri Geller, continues to support the reality
of the Geller effect and also believes that there is evidence
of an electromagnetic field in the phenomenon.
Sources
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Taylor, John The Horizons of Knowledge. N.p., 1982.
———. Science and the Supernatural. New York E. P. Dutton,
1980.
———. The Shape of Minds to Come. N.p., 1971.
———. Superminds. London Macmillan, 1975.