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Rhine, J B

Entry updated 7 August 2023. Tagged: Author.

(1895-1980) US botanist and early promoter – from a position at Duke University beginning in 1927 – of the nascent science or Pseudoscience of parapsychology, most famously through a series of tests designed to demonstrate the measurable existence, in terms of "abnormal" Psychology, of various forms of extrasensory perception (see ESP; Perception; Psi Powers; Telekinesis; Telepathy). His findings, later disputed for methodological flaws by numerous critics including Martin Gardner and John T Sladek, were vividly presented in his first book, Extra-Sensory Perception (1934). A clear inference permitted by this book was that Supermen, unaware of their powers, might exist all unbeknownst amongst "normals". A further inference, catnip to some sf writers, was that these supermen might be conscious of their superiority to normal Homo sapiens, and might be inclined to influence history as Secret Masters; if exposed, they might comprise a Pariah Elite. This topos early intrigued John W Campbell Jr, an influence that may possibly date from his time as a student at Duke in the early 1930s; this early imprint could arguably have caused permanent damage both to Astounding Science-Fiction and to the field in general. By the mid-1950s Rhine himself was not mentioned frequently, though enclaves of supermen have remained common stock. George O Smith's novel Highways in Hiding (March-June Imagination; 1956; cut vt The Space Plague 1957), featuring an America shaped by the Rhine Institute and dominant cadres of perceivers and telepaths, may have been the last to embed Rhine at its heart; and was clearly belated on publication.

Rhine himself continued to publish widely, but without continuing to enjoy the easy éclat that accompanied his first assay. [JC]

Joseph Banks Rhine

born Waterloo, Pennsylvania: 29 September 1895

died Hillsborough, North Carolina: 20 February 1980

works (selected)


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