William James and the American Society for Psychical Research, 1884-9

Thanks to a travel grant from the British Society for the History of Science (BSHS) I was able to present a paper at this year’s British-North American Joint Meeting of the BSHS, CSHPS, and HSS in Canada. The presentation distilled a small part of a chapter in my forthcoming study on the formation of modern … Read more

Can Psychotherapists Benefit from History of Science Scholarship? Open Access to my Article on the Psychology of Belief in Histories of Science and the Occult

Historians rarely have the opportunity to say something that might be of practical relevance to clinicians or workers in other fields of applied scientific knowledge. As mentioned previously, I was therefore particularly chuffed when psychotherapist Nick Totton invited me last year to contribute an article to an envisaged special issue of the European Journal of … Read more

Scientific Revolutions and the “Will to Believe”: The Birth of Heliocentrism. Guest Post by Bob Rosenberg

Bob Rosenberg received a PhD in History of Science and Technology from Johns Hopkins University. He spent two decades at Rutgers University on the staff of the Thomas A. Edison Papers, the last seven as director of the project. Since 2001 he has lived on the San Francisco Peninsula, working from 2005 to 2013 for … Read more

‘The Living and The Dead’: Working as a History Advisor for the Upcoming BBC Drama Series

Hearing that I can’t live without quality horror flicks probably won’t come as a shock to you. Imagine therefore my delight when the BBC approached me in November 2014 to discuss an opportunity to get involved in the making of a TV horror drama as a history advisor. Created by Life on Mars and Ashes … Read more

Guest Post: Robert Hare, the Spiritoscope, and Playfulness in Science. By Simone Natale

Simone Natale is a Lecturer in Communication and Media Studies at Loughborough University, United Kingdom. He is the author of Supernatural Entertainments: Victorian Spiritualism and the Rise of Modern Media Culture, published by Pennsylvania State University Press in 2016. You can follow him on Twitter and Academia.edu. One of the peculiarities of spiritualism, a religious … Read more

Are you Afraid of the Dark?

Last year I was approached by psychotherapist Nick Totton to contribute an article to a special issue on the ‘occult’, which Totton was about to edit for the European Journal of Psychotherapy & Counselling. As far as I can tell, my essay will be the only one written by a historian, while all other contributions … Read more

Happy Birthday, SPR!

Today is the birthday of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), the oldest substantial association founded to investigate in a radical empirical spirit the contested phenomena of animal magnetism and spiritualism. Inaugurated on 20th February 1882, the still existing SPR is now 134 years old. To historians of science and medicine, the Society’s history offers … Read more

Fresh off the Press: Léon Marillier and the Veridical or Telepathic Hallucination in France

I’m pleased to see my joint article on telepathic hallucinations in French psychology and psychiatry with Pascal Le Maléfan came out today in the journal History of Psychiatry. Le Maléfan, P., & Sommer, A. (2015). Léon Marillier and the veridical hallucination in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century French psychology and psychopathology. History of Psychiatry, 26, 418-432. … Read more

Two Years of ‘Forbidden Histories’

Today is my second birthday as a blogger. To celebrate, I decided to upgrade my free WordPress account, mainly to get rid of the annoying ads which started appearing as ‘Forbidden Histories’ got more views. Besides, the Premium account comes with its own dinky domain, forbiddenhistories.com (though the old address, forbiddenhistories.wordpress.com, is still working). Whoop. … Read more

It’s Happening: ‘Psychical Research and the Formation of Modern Psychology’

I’m chuffed to report that I just received the contract for my book, preliminary titled Psychical Research and the Formation of Modern Psychology. The study, to be published in late 2016 or early 2017 by Stanford University Press, will respond to a growing trend of historical interest in psychical research, i.e. the radical empirical investigation … Read more

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