J. G. Piddington

          PIDDINGTON WAS unfortunate in substituting his mother's maiden name for his own, which was Smith. He did this to avoid confusion; but ran into an unexpected risk - that of being identified by posterity with 'The Piddingtons' a husband and wife team who carried out well organized music hall 'telepathy acts'.

He joined the SPR in 1890, and served as its Hon Secretary from 1899 to 1907 and later as its Treasurer. An admirable administrator, he did much unspectacular but essential work, financial and otherwise.

It was he who established the SPR's Research Endowment Fund; and he who devoted a great deal of time, scholarship and ingenuity to interpreting cases of cross correspondence, some of them complex and obscure. Already in 1906 he was encouraging Mrs Verrall to keep up her automatic writing; and in 1923 he was carefully evaluating some of the scripts that had seemed to foretell some of the events of World War I, notably the sinking of the Lusitania.

He had a gift for summing people up well - demonstrated in his obituary of the Richard Hodgson which, after acknowledging the value of his work, presented him as 'a sociable, athletic man', who 'dealt hammer blows in controversy' and 'knew he was right'.

Piddington's SPR Presidential Address (Proceedings XXXIV, 1924) noted that, though progress had been slow and hesitating, there had been real advance; and that scientists, who were not always good at assessing human testimony, should not be regarded as 'the last court of appeal'. Long-winded as it tends to be, it makes one important point that needs constant reiteration; that of the danger of the Society's lowering its critical standards in order to retain members (and their subscriptions) who were impatient with slow, complex, research procedures. What would it profit to save the Society and to forfeit the end to which the Society is a means?, he asked.

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



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