Sidgwick, Professor Henry

Sidgwick, Professor Henry (1838–1900)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Born May 31, 1838, Henry Sidgwick became the first President of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in London, England. Sidgwick was Professor of Moral Philosophy at Cambridge University. He was described as “the most incorrigibly and exasperatingly critical and skeptical brain in England.” On becoming President of the SPR in 1882, he said, “It is a scandal that the dispute as to the reality of these (psychic) phenomena should still be going on, that so many competent witnesses have declared their belief in them … and yet the educated world, as a body, should still be simply in an attitude of incredulity.” He worked with the society for eighteen years, contributing many important studies to the Proceedings. He once wrote to a friend, “I have actually heard the raps … however, I have no kind of evidence to come before a jury.” He was initially most impressed with the phenomena of the medium Eusapia Paladino but took a leading part in the sittings with her, held at Cambridge in 1895, which resulted in her exposure as a fraud. He had a number of sittings with Leonora Piper, in 1889–1890, and retained the keenest interest in her trance phenomena.

Sidwick had sittings with Henry Slade and Frank Herne, séances with the English materialization medium Miss C. E. Wood and Annie Fairlamb Mellon, but he never published his findings of these sittings. He died before he had a chance to recognize the validity of psychokinesis and ectoplasm.

After Sidwick’s death on August 28, 1900, a number of mediums purported to bring word from his spirit. When English trance medium Mrs. R. Thompson channeled him on January 11, 1901, Mr. John George Piddington was present and said that the diction, manner of speech, and the voice itself were all astonishingly life like and he felt that he was indeed speaking with the man he had known.


Buckland, Raymond: The Fortune-Telling Book: The Encyclopedia of Divination and Soothsaying. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 2004
Fishley, Margaret: The Supernatural. London: Aldus, 1976
Spence, Lewis: An Encyclopedia of the Occult. London: George Routledge & Sons, 1920
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