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Psychologist; psychical researcher; founder-member with Sir William Barrett, F. W. H. Myers, Henry Sidgwick (qq.v.), and others, Society for Psychical Research, London, 1882; secretary, 1883; editor, SPR Journal and Proceedings, 1886-88. B. March 23, 1847, Horsharm, England; d. June 23, 1888, Brighton, Sussex, England. Educ. Trinity College, Cambridge (fellow). Studied music, 1872-1877; medicine 1877-81.
Gurney's active interest in psychical research dated from 1874, when, at the suggestion of F. W. H. Myers, he began attending spiritualistic seances. He became from the first the most active officer of the SPR, devoting himself especially to the study of telepathy and hypnotism. The former interest led him to the compilation, in collaboration with Myers and Frank Podmore (q.v.), of Phantasms of the Living (1886). One of the classics of psychical research, the volume deals not only with spontaneous and experimental telepathy, but the evidential standards necessary in psychical research, pointing out the weaknesses in observation and reporting to which the untrained person is prone. Hallucinations and various psychological conditions apparently conducive to paranormal phenomena are analyzed and discussed exhaustively.

In the field of hypnotism, Gurney was recognized as one of the greatest authorities of his day. He was among the first to recognize the importance of unconscious mental processes in the production of trance phenomena. He made valuable contributions to the knowledge of methods of inducing hypnosis and the relation of memory in the hypnotic state to normal waking memory. Gurney's books, in addition to Phantasms of the Living, include The Power of Sound (1880), and Tertium Quid, Chapters on Various Disputed Questions (1887). He also wrote for numberous articles on music, philosophy, psychical research, etc., Mind, Fortnightly Review and other journals.

Gurney's articles in the SPR Proceedings include "The Stages of Hypnotism" (Vol. 2, Part 5, 1884); "Account of Some Experiments in Mesmerism" (Vol. 2, Part 6, 1884); "The Problems of Hypnotism" (Vol. 2, Part 7, 1884); "Hallucinations" (Vol. 3, Part 8, 1885); "Some Higher Aspects of Mesmerism" (Vol. 3, Part 10, 1885); "Perculiarities of Certain Post-Hypnotic States" (Vol. 4, Part 11, 1886-87); "Stages of Hypnotic Memory" (Vol. 4, Part 11, 1886-87); "Recent Experiments in Hypnotism" (Vol. 5, Part 12, 1888-89); "Hypnotism and Telepathy" (Vol. 5, Part 12, 1888-89).

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



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