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Charles Richet: A Nobel Prize Winning Scientist's Exploration of Psychic Phenomena   Charles Richet: A Nobel Prize Winning Scientist's Exploration of Psychic Phenomena
Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD

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In Charles Richet: A Nobel Prize Winning Scientist’s Explorations of Psychic Phenomena, author, Carlos Alvarado, presents a collection of previously published scholarly papers about Richet.

Charles Richet (1850-1935), the distinguished French physiologist who won a Nobel Prize for his work on anaphylaxis, was a renaissance man. In addition to physiology he wrote poetry and plays and took an interest in many topics including pacifism, eugenics, philosophy, psychology and psychical research, which he referred to as metapsychics—the subject of this book.

Richet, in his role of psychical researcher, investigated ESP, mental and physical mediumship, survival of death and hypnosis. While never publically accepting survival and communication with discarnate entities, he became fully immersed in the phenomena and wrote in a letter to British physicist, Oliver Lodge, who had accepted it, “Without being resolutely spiritist in the sense of Conan Doyle and Allan Kardec, I gradually get closer to your ideas. I say to you—which is absolutely true—that your deep and scientific conviction had great influence, a very great influence.”

Chapters include Richet’s ESP experiments where he used statistical evaluation in a bid to establish differences between scientific and non-scientific approaches to the subject—a novelty at the time.  Also discussed is his defense of psychical research and a commentary on his celebrated and influential book Traité de Métapsychique (Thirty Years of Psychical Research).

The book has an extensive notes section and appendices, which contain Richet’s observations about mediums Leonora Piper and Marthe Béraud, his use of the term “ectoplasm,” and a reprint of his essay characterizing metapsychics as a science.



Chapter 1: Interest in Psychic Phenomena

Chapter 2: Richet’s Metapsychic Autobiography

Chapter 3: Early Ideas and Tests of Mental Suggestion

Chapter 4: Presenting Psychical Research to Psychology (1905)

Chapter 5:The Traité de Métapsychique (1922)

Chapter 6: Richet on “The Limits of Psychic and Metapsychic Science”

Appendix A: Richet on Leonora E. Piper

Appendix B: Observations of Moving Ectoplasm with Medium Marthe Béraud

Appendix C: On the Term Ectoplasm

Appendix D: Is there a Science of Metapsychics?

Appendix E: Bibliography About and by Charles Richet with Emphasis on Psychic Phenomena, compiled by Carlos S. Avarado, PhD, and Renaud Evrard, PhD

Appendix F: Bibliography About the History of Psychical Research





Praise for Charles Richet: A Nobel Prize Winning Scientist’s Exploration of Psychic Phenomena

In the history of Western psychology, William James, Wilhelm Wundt, and Charles Richet stand out as its acknowledged founders, but it was Richet who bridged academic psychology and its applications in psychotherapy. In this remarkable book, Carlos Alvarado discloses another of Richet’s bridges, the link between his background in psychophysiology and his interest in psychical research.  It was Richet who first applied statistical evaluation to the identification of hidden targets, and who proposed a sophisticated psychological explanation of mediumship. These and other contributions reveal a mind that was visionary yet disciplined; one whose insights are still relevant in the twenty-first century.

Stanley Krippner, Ph.D., co-editor, Varieties of Anomalous Experience.

Charles Richet belongs to that most select group of individuals, including Marie Curie and William James, whose genius flowed over disciplinary borders and whose insatiable interests included psi phenomena. Richet, Nobel prize winner in physiology, innovative experimentalist, writer whose play’s title role Circé was performed by Sarah Bernhardt, and founder of parapsychology research in France, finds a splendid chronicler in Carlos S. Alvarado, our foremost contemporary historian of parapsychology.

Etzel Cardeña, Ph.D., Thorsen Professor of Psychology at Lund University, Sweden, and co-editor of Parapsychology: A Handbook for the 21st Century and Varieties of Anomalous Experience.

Charles Richet was a leading representative of the French life sciences and early experimental psychology. As a historical figure, he is notoriously difficult to pigeonhole. A Nobel Laureate in physiology/medicine and aviation pioneer, Richet was a glowing pacifist while also advocating eugenics and a disturbing ‘scientific racism’. A devout epiphenomenalist incapable of taking seriously the idea of discarnate minds, he was France’s pre-eminent investigator of parapsychological phenomena. Richet still awaits a biographer doing justice to all of his multi-faceted and seemingly contradictory interests and activities. In the meantime, these essays by Carlos S. Alvarado will be an indispensable and convenient starting point for anybody interested in Richet’s métapsychique.

Andreas Sommer, PhD, author of Crossing the Boundaries of Mind and Body: Psychical Research and the Origins of Modern Psychology (PhD thesis, University College London)

Dr. Carlos S. Alvarado is a consummate scholar, researcher and historian evident by his choice of Charles Richet essays. Like Richet, he is fearless in his subject matter and with years of scholarly reading brings insight and clear thinking within the complex study of psychical phenomena. I heartily recommend Charles Richet: A Nobel Prize Winning Scientist’s Explorations of Psychic Phenomena.

Lisette Coly, President, Parapsychology Foundation

An interesting book on the Nobel Prize winning physiologist Charles Richet (1950-1935) and his contributions to psychical research. In his classic Traité de Métapsychique (1922), Richet gives an overview of this field, which he called métapsychique. He attempted to explain mental phenomena such as telepathy with his concept of cryptesthesia, involving brain functioning, and was critical of survival research. This book is a valuable contribution to the pre-WWII history of psychical research.

Erlendur Haraldsson. PhD, Professor Emeritus, University of Iceland, author of I Saw a Light and Came Here: Children‘s Experiences of Reincarnation (with J. Matlock), and Indridi Indridason the Icelandic Physical Medium (with L. Gissurarson).

It is little known today that the French scientist Charles Richet, by analyzing a wide range of anomalous manifestations of the human psyche, performed influential studies that affected the development of psychical research. This book by Alvarado, the first one published in English about Richet’s psychical research, is of utmost importance as it examines the work carried out by Richet and the results he achieved applying a rigorous and scientific approach to the phenomena. The volume provides much useful information about important aspects of the history of psychical research between nineteenth and twentieth century, and offers historical insights on a notable border area of the culture.

Massimo Biondi, MD, author of Tavoli e Medium: Storia dello Spiritismo in Italia,
and La Ricerca Psichica.

Carlos Alvarado is well qualified to write this book. Analyzing Charles Richet’s contributions to psychical research is a difficult challenge because of epistemological biases that prevent us applying the usual scholarly approach. Alvarado has patiently collected every document relative to his topic and presented them in a clear didactic way, and in context. This book was deeply needed.

Renaud Evrard, PhD, Université de Lorraine, author, La légende de l’esprit: Enquête sur 150
ans de parapsychologie

About the author

Carlos S. Alvarado has a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Edinburgh, and holds masters degrees in parapsychology (MS, John F. Kennedy University), and in history (MA, Duke University). His work has centered on studies about the history of psychical research, and on survey research (on out-of-body experiences and other psychic experiences).

Alvarado is a Research Fellow at the Parapsychology Foundation, and Adjunct Research Faculty at Sofia University (formerly Institute of Transpersonal Psychology). He is on the editorial boards of the Journal of Near-Death Studies and the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research.

He is Associate Editor of the Journal of Scientific Exploration, and the Book Review Editor of the Journal of Parapsychology. Alvarado is also the recipient of the 2010 Parapsychological Association’s Outstanding Contribution Award, the 2017 Parapsychological Association’s Outstanding Career Award, and of the 2010 Harold and Sherry Crasilneck Award for Best First Paper on Hypnosis published in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis.

Regarding publications, Alvarado is one of the editors of Research in Parapsychology 1993 (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1998), and the author of booklets for introducing parapsychology to the general public (Getting Started in Parapsychology. New York: Parapsychology Foundation, 2002; Apuntes para una Introducción a la Parapsicología. New York: Parapsychology Foundation, 1999). He has published over 340 articles in publications such as: Australian Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, History of Psychiatry, Journal of Psychology, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, Journal of Parapsychology, Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Journal of Scientific Exploration, and the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research.

His articles about historical topics include: (2019). Musings on materializations: Eric J. Dingwall on “The Plasma Theory.” Journal of Scientific Exploration, 33, 73–113; (2019). Classic text No.119: Jules Bernard Luys on magnetic pathology. History of Psychiatry, 30, 359–374; (2019). Eight decades of psi research: Highlights in the Journal of Parapsychology. Journal of Parapsychology, 82, 24-35; (2017). Telepathy, mediumship and psychology: Psychical research at the international congresses of psychology, 1889–1905. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 31, 255-292; (2015). (with N.L. Zingrone). Note on the reception of Théodore Flournoy’s Des Indes à le Planète Mars. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 79, 156-164; (2014). Mediumship, psychical research, dissociation, and the powers of the subconscious mind. Journal of Parapsychology, 78, 98–114. (2012). Psychic phenomena and the mind-body problem: Historical notes on a neglected conceptual tradition. In A. Moreira-Almeida and F.S. Santos (Eds.), Exploring Frontiers of the Mind-Brain Relationship (pp. 35-51). New York: Springer Science + Business Media; (2012). (First author, with R. Evrard). The psychic sciences in France: Historical notes on the Annales des Sciences Psychiques. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 26, 117–140; (2011). Eusapia Palladino: An autobiographical essay. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 25, 77-101; (2010). Classic text No. 84: ‘Divisions of personality and spiritism’ by Alfred Binet (1896). History of Psychiatry, 21, 487-500; (2009). Late nineteenth and early twentieth century discussions of animal magnetism. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 57, 366-381; (2002) Dissociation in Britain during the late nineteenth century: The Society for Psychical Research, 1882-1900. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 3, 9-33.

Carlos’ blog can be found at

Publisher: White Crow Books
Published December 2019
218 pages
Size: 5 x 8 inches
ISBN 978-1-78677-112-4
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