Price, George R(obert) (1922-1975)

views updated

Price, George R(obert) (1922-1975)

Chemist and science writer, who published articles critical of parapsychology findings. Price was born on October 16, 1922, in Scarsdale, New York. He studied at Harvard Universityand at the University of Chicago (B.S., 1943; Ph.D. chemistry, 1946). He worked on the Manhattan Project during the last days of World War II and then from 1946 to 1957 worked at various teaching and industrial positions. In 1957, he became a full-time writer of material on science, primarily chemistry and biology.

In August 1955, Price started a controversy by publishing an article in Science magazine (the periodical of the American Association for the Advancement of Science). He dismissed parapsychologists (then attempting to gain admittance to the circles of the AAAS) with the observation that their positive results were "dependent on clerical and statistical errors and unintentional use of sensory clues" and claimed that "all extra-chance results not so explicable are dependent on deliberate fraud or mildly abnormal mental conditions."

This article was quoted by newspapers and journals. It suggested various fraudulent methods used to show such results as those claimed by parapsychologists like J. B. Rhine and S. B. Soal, and stated their claims were not acceptable as proof of extrasensory perception. Rhine and Soal responded to these criticisms in the Newsletter of the Parapsychology Foundation (October 1955), which also published a further communication from Price.

It is believed the skeptical attitude of Price represented a backlash against parapsychology by orthodox scientists of the time, particularly by members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a body having refused to permit affiliation to the Parapsychological Association. Reportedly the skeptical and hostile criticisms stimulated parapsychologists to develop methods of testing extrasensory perception that could not be faulted by their colleagues in other fields on simple methodological grounds. An indication of the acceptability of parapsychology as a recognized scientific discipline was the acceptance of the Parapsychological Society into membership of the AAAS in December 1969.

In 1972, Price changed his mind about what he had written in the 1950s. In an article in Science, he apologized to Soal and Rhine for treating them unfairly. Shortly afterward, it was discovered that Price had been right about Soal, who had faked the data he had presented.


Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991.

Markwick, Betty. "The Soal-Goldney Experiments with Basil Shackleton: New Evidence of Data Manipulation." Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 56 (1978).

Pleasants, Helene, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology. New York: Helix Press, 1964.

Price, George R. "Apology to Rhine and Soal." Science 175 (1972).

. "Science and the Supernatural." Science 122 (August 26, 1955).

. "Where Is the Definitive Experiment?" Science (January 6, 1956).

About this article

Price, George R(obert) (1922-1975)

Updated About content Print Article