THE BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF PARAPSYCHOLOGY
Psychologist; psychic researcher; executive secretary, American Society for Psychical Research, 187-90; secretary-treasurer, 1890-97, 1898-1905. B. September 24, 1855, Melbourne, Australia; d. December 20, 1905. Boston, Massachusettes. B. A., 1874, LL.B., 1875, M. A., 1876, LL.D. 1878, University of Melbourne; honors degree, moral sciences, 1881, St. John's College, Cambridge.
For many years Hodgson's name was synonymous with psychical research both in Britian and the United States. During his long service with the ASPR (which in 1890 gave up its independent status to become a branch of the British society), he worked closely with such pioneers as William James and James H. Hyslop (qq.v.). A painstaking researcher, Hodgson was responsible for exposing many fradulent mediums, but he was firm in his support when in the course of carefully controlled investigations he became convinced of teh genuineness of a medium's work.
As a youth in Australia, Hodgson was interested in psychic research, and hi interest was further stimulated at Cambridge by Professor Henry Sidgwick (q.v.), a founder of the Society for Psychical Research, London. Hodgson joined the SPR in 1882 and n 1884 was sent by the society to India to observe and investigate "phenomena connected with the Theosophical Society." After some months in Madras, headquarters of the organization, Hodgson reported adversely, declaring the whole of the phenomena fraudulently produced, and condemning in particular the leader of the Theosophical Society, Mme. Helen Petrovna Blavatsky.
In 1886, in collaboration with S. J. Davey, Hodgson organized a series of "mock seances" demonstrating the unreliability o the testimony of untrained sitters. H ccame to the United States in 1887 to become the first executive secretary of the ASPR. Although he investigated many types of psychic phenomena he was perhaps best known for his observations and reports concerning Mrs. Leonore Piper (q.v.), whose mediumship he studied in great detail and whose "communications" he finally accepted as coming from discarnate spirits.
Hodgson returned to England in 1897, serving as a member of the SPR Council and as editor of the society's Proceedings and Journal. He resumed his work with the American society the next year but continued to visit England at intervals and in 1901, after the death of F. W. H. Myers (q.v.), Hodgson worked with Alice Johnson (q.v.) to prepare for publications Myers' Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death.
For the ASPR Proceedings, Hodgson wrote the paper "On Some Objections to the Theory of Telepathy" (Vol. 1, No. 4, March 1889). His many articles for the SPR Proceedings, written before his departure for the United States and later as secretary-treasurer of the American branch of the London society, include "Report on Phenomena Connected with Theosophy" (with Mrs. Henry Sidgwick, q.v., and others; Vol. 3, Part 9, 1885); "The Possibilities of Mal-Observation and Lapse of Memory from a Practical Point of View (with S. J. Davy; Vol. 4, Part 11, 1886-87); "Ansel Bourne: A Case of Double Personality (Vol. 7, 1890); "A Record of Observations of Certain Phenomena of Trance" (Vol. 8, Part 21, 1892); "Mr. Davy's Imitations by Conjuring of Phenomena Sometimes Attributed to Spirit Agency" (Vol. 8, Part 22, 1892); "The Defense of the Theosophists" (Vol. 9, Part 25, 1894); "A Further Record of Observations of Certain Phenomena of Trance" (Vol. 13, Part 33, 1898); "Report on Six Sittings with Mrs. Thompson" (Vol. 17, Part 64, 1903). See also the biography, Richard Hodgson, by Alex T. Baird (1949).
Taken from Helene Pleasants (1964) Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology with Directory and Glossary 1946-1996 NY: Garrett Publications