Sir William Crookes FRS (1832-1919)

William Crookes


          Highly distinguished physicist and chemist. Discovered the element thallium. Elected fellow of the Royal Society in 1863, Royal Gold Medal 1875, Davy Medal 1888, Sir Joseph Copley Medal 1904, knighted in 1897 and the Order of Merit in 1910. Invented the radiometer, developed the Crookes tube, invented the cathode-ray tube, pioneered research into radiation effects, contributed to photography, wireless telegraphy, electricity and spectroscopy. President at different times of the Royal Society, the Chemical Society, the Institution of Electrical Engineers, the Society of Chemical Industry, the Society for Psychical Research (from 1896-1899) and the British Association. Founder of the Chemical News, editor of Quarterly Journal of Science


First began his investigations into 'psychic' phenomena in 1869 as a hostile doubter. In his article, 'Spiritualism Viewed by the Light of Modern Science' he declared:

"The increased employment of scientific methods will produce a race of observers who will drive the worthless residuum of spiritualism hence into the unknown limbo of magic and necromancy."

The Press received the announcement with jubilation. It was taken for granted that a scientific man of Crookes' caliber would expose the whole thing as fraud and simple humbug. Foregone conclusions have never been met with more bitter disappointment. Crookes' experiments with Daniel D. Home demonstrated the existence of a 'psychic force' wholly ignored by science. 


Crookes later stated:

"Of all persons endowed with a powerful development of this Psychic Force, Mr. Daniel Dunglas Home is the most remarkable and it is mainly owing to the many opportunities I have had of carrying on my investigation in his presence that I am enabled to affirm so conclusively the existence of this force."

A harsh attack on Crookes' character and scientific credentials ensured. Dr. Carpenter, a bitter 'sceptic', anonymously accused Crookes of being a 'specialist of specialists'! Frank Podmore said:

"The obvious candour of Mr. Crookes' article in the Quarterly Journal of Science, and their judicial tone, present a striking contrast to the inaccuracy, spiteful depreciation, under the shield of anonymity, of other men's work and the grotesque self-assertion which disfigured Dr. Carpenter's criticism".

But even greater things were to amaze his colleagues: the case of Florence Cook and the 'spirit' entity Katie King. Crookes began by establishing whether Cook and King were two separate entities; this he proved beyond all reasonable doubt. Cook and King were seen together by Crookes and his co-investigators on many occasions, even under the full blaze of electric light. A total of forty four photographs were subsequently taken, clearly demonstrating the physical differences between the medium and the 'spirit' entity.

Yet again, Crookes had to face the full wrath of ridicule and hostility of his critics.  Eventually Crookes abandoned his attempt to convince his scientific brethren. But he never withdrew or modified his opinions during his long subsequent scientific career.

In an interview published in The International Psychic Gazette in 1917 he said:

"I have never had any occasion to change my mind on the subject. I am perfectly satisfied with what I have said in earlier days. It is quite true that a connection has been set up between this world and the next".

Source (with minor modifications): An Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science by Nandor Fodor (1934).

Books by William Crookes on this website:

Researches into the Phenomena of Modern Spiritualism



Some parts of this page The International Survivalist Society 2004