Richet, Charles


1911 ALS from the Nobel laureate to a US psychologist and psychical researcher about vetting his young Mexican protege



Autograph ID: 10001

Type: Letter

Condition: Very good

Charles Robert Richet (1850-1935) Controversial French physiologist known for pioneering work in immunology, won 1913 Nobel Prize  in Physiology or Medicine for his work on anaphylaxis. He devoted many years to studying paranormal and spiritualist phenomena, coined term “ectoplasm.”  A proponent of eugenics, also believed Blacks were inferior.

He studied medicine in Paris and as an intern at the Salpêtrière hospital, observed Jean-Martin Charcot ‘s work with “hysterical” patients. In 1887, he became professor of  physiology at the College  de France investigating digestion, neurochemistry, thermoregulation in homeothermic animals, and breathing.  In 1898, he became a member of the Academie de Medecine. In 1913, his work with Paul Portier on anaphylaxis, a term he coined for a sensitized individual’s sometimes lethal reaction to a second, small-dose injection of an antigen, won the  Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine .  The research helped elucidate hay fever, asthma, and other allergic reactions.

He had many interests and wrote in many fields. He led a small permanent delegation of French Pacifist Societies in 1902. In 1905, Charles & Jacques Breguet, under his guidance, began work on a gyroplane (forerunner of the helicopter) with flexible wings. On Sept. 29, 1907 their Gyroplane No. 1 achieved the 1st ascent of a vertical-flight aircraft with a pilot to a height of 2’. The 1st rotary-wing aircraft to lift a person off the ground, it did not fly freely, controlled by ground handlers with poles.

He had a deep interest in extrasensory perceptin (ESP)  and hypnosis, founded the “Annales des Sciences Psychiques” 1891, and corresponded with renowned occultists and spiritualists.  In 1894, Richet coined the term “ectoplasm”, believing some mediumship  could be explained physically due to external projection of a material substance (ectoplasm) from the medium’s body, but rejected as unscientific the spirit hypothesis of  mediumship. President of the Society for Psychical Research in the UK 1905, honorary chairman of the Institut Metaphysique International in Paris 1919, full-time president 1930, he was sure of a physical explanation for paranormal phenomena. In his 1928 book “Our Sixth Sense”, he hypothesized a “sixth sense”, an ability to perceive hypothetical vibrations. While believing in ESP, he rejected life after death or spirits. A proponent of  eugenics, he advocated sterilization and prohibiting marriage for those with mental disabilities in his 1919 book “La Sélection Humaine”, led the French Eugenics Society 1920-26.

ALS in French on  7 ¼ x 4 ½ 15, “Rue de l’Universite” Paris letterhead, stamped date of June 1, 1911 on lower left, to “Cher Monsieur Hyslop.” While not formally translated, Richet tells Hyslop that as soon as he shalll meet Mr. Mantilla, it will be necessary to do a complete examination of him, if not by Richet than by someone else very competent, and asks Hyslop to let Richet know of his desire.

JAMES H. HYSLOP (1854-1920) Noted American psychical researcher, psychologist, Columbia University professor of ethics and logic 1895-1902. He was one of the 1st US psychologists to connect psychology with psychic phenomena. In 1906 he helped reorganize the American Society for Psychical Research in NYC, served as Secretary-Treasurer to his death. Received Johns Hopkins University Ph.D. 1877. At Columbia, Hyslop wrote several textbooks, incl. The Elements of Logic (1892), Elements of Ethics (1895), and Problems of Philosophy (1905), and became deeply involved with psychical research. Hyslop took interest in such research in the 1880s. After retiring from teaching due to ill health, he founded the American Institute for Scientific Research 1904 to stir interest and raise funds for psychical research. Became an active member of the Society for Pyschical Research and its US branch, worked closely with Richard Hodgson and William James. The year after Hodgson’s death in 1905, the ASPR was dissolved. Hyslop revived it as a section of his institute, soon replaced the Institute altogether. He issued the 1st Journal in 1907. His 1st book on psychical research, Science and a Future Life, was pub. in 1905, followed by Enigmas of Psychic Research (1906), Borderland of Psychical Research (1906), Psychical Research and the Resurrection (1908), Psychical Research and Survival (1913), Life After Death (1918), and Contact with the Other World (1919). He became convinced in the existence of an afterlife.

Originally an agnostic and a materialist, Hyslop’s interest in psychic investigation increased after sessions with Boston medium Leonora Piper. His first major experimental account of personal settings with her was published in 1901. He believed that through her he had received messages from his father, his wife, and other members of his family, about which he reported in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (London, 1901. In his book Science and a Future Life (1905), Hyslop wrote of his séance sittings with Piper and suggested they could only be explained by spirits or telepathy. Beginning in 1907, he worked with different mediums to investigate spirit possession and obsession and made a deep study of multiple personalities and of obsession, and came to the conclusion that in many cases it could be attributed to spirit possession.

In 1916, Hyslop wrote that the whole case for Pearl Curran’s mediumship was based on fraud as was Patience Worth, and Casper Yost. Although a believer in mental mediumship, Hyslop found the physical phenomena of spiritualism “repulsive”.

According to the March 3, 1912 New York Times:

“ The Society of American Magicians would like to meet and test the powers of Miguel Manuel Mantilla, an 8-year-old Mexican protege of Prof. James H. Hyslop of the Society for Psychical Research. The boy’s specialty is telling the day of the week of any day where the month and year are given.” Hyslop suspected that the boy, then 7, had psychical powers.  The Society of American Magicians said such skills were one of the first tricks of a conjurer, calling it a “simple trick” a child could have worked out in his mind.

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