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Physicist and chemist; president, Society for Psychical Research, 1896-99. b. June 17, 1832, London; d. April 4, 1919, London. Educ. Chippenham; Royal College of Chemistry, London, Superintendent Meteorological Department, Radcliffe Observatory, Oxford, 1854; professor of chemistry, Science College, Chester, 1855. M. 1856, Ellen Humphrey (d. 1916): 1 d., 4 s. Discover of element thallium (1861); inventor, during studies of radioactive matter, of the radiometer (1876), the spinthariscope (1903), and the Crookes tube, a high-vacuum tube whose use in research contributed to the discovery of X ray; and of Crookes spectacles, the first transparent, protective glass to be developed for the use of steek and glass smelters.

Elected Fellow Royal Society, 1863; kinghted, 1897; awarded Order of Merit, 1910. Honorary degress in laws and science from Birmingham, Oxford, Cambridge, Ireland, Cape of Good Hope, Sheffield and Durham universities. Winner of Royal Society's Royal, Copley and Davy medals, and of medals and other awards from scientific associations in Britain, France, United States. President: Chemical Society, 1887-89; Institution of Electrical Engineers, 1890-94; British Association, 1898; Society of Chemical Industry, 1913; Royal Society, 1913-15. Foreign Associate, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.; member of various professional and scholarly associations in Britain, United States, France, Germany, Mexico, Italy, Rumania, the Netherlands. Translator from French and German of papers on chemistry, agriculture; adviser to British government on ordnance, sanitation. Founder (1859) and editor, Chemical News; editor, Quarterly Journal of Science.

Crookes' chief interest in psychic research was mediumship. From 1870 to 1874 he gave up research in electronics to devote himself exclusively to investigation of so-called physical phenomena, particulary with the mediums Florence Cook and Daniel Dunglas Home (qq.v.). For his experiments with Home, famous for feats of alleged levitation and materialization, Crookes devised special apparatus for test and control. Convinced that "certain physical phenomena such as the movement of material substances and the production of sounds...occur under circumstances in which they cannot be explained by any physical laws at present known," Crookes reported on his experiments in detail in the Quarterly Journal of Science (July, 1871, et seq.) and later in the Proceddings of the SPR (Vol. 6, 1889; Vol. 9, 1893-94). The scientifc community, although it continued to acknowledge and utilize Crookes' contributions in electronics adn chemistry, with few exceptions rejected what he believed was strong evidence for what he called "psychic force."

Crookes' work with Florence Cook and Home had, however, strengthened his own spiritualistic leanings. Although he gave up his formal psychic investigations to return to his pioneer work in radioactivity and the study of the elements of rare earths, his interest in mediumship and participation in seances continued. Shortly afer the death of his wife, in the three years before his own death, Crookes made what he believed to be successful efforts to communicate with her.

His publications in the psychical field include Experimental Investigations on Psychic Force (1871); Psychic Force and Modern Spiritualism (1871); Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism (1874); Researchers in the Phenomena of Modern Spiritualims (1905). His articles, besides those already mentioned, include "Report on an Alleged Physical Phenomena (Proceedings SPR, Vol. 3, 1885); "Discussion" (SPR Journal, Vol. 6, 1893-94). See The Life of Sir William Crookes by E. E. Fournier d'Albe (1923); In Memory of Sir William Crookes by Sir William Barrett (Proceedings SPR, Vol. 31, 1920); and The Spiritualists (1962) by Trevor H. Hall (q.v.), which includes a study of the controversial seances with Florrie Cook.

Taken from Helene Pleasants (1964) Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology with Directory and Glossary 1946-1996 NY: Garrett Publications



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