Sheldrake, Rupert (1942-)

views updated

Sheldrake, Rupert (1942-)

British biochemist with specialized experience in plant research who has proposed a bold new theory of formative causation, concerned with the origin and growth of form and characteristics in nature. While not denying the inheritance of characteristics through the gene complex, he has suggested a literal view of what has been termed for convenience "morphogenetic fields" as actual structures independent of time and space. Although Sheldrake's field theory applies primarily to organisms, plants, and animals, it also has important relevance to concepts of parapsychological phenomena, such as telepathy, clairvoyance and reincarnation.

Robert Sheldrake was born June 28, 1942, in Newark Notts, England. He was educated at Clare College, Cambridge University, England, becoming a fellow and director of studies in biochemistry and cell biology. In 1973, he was awarded a Rosenheim Research Fellowship of the Royal Society. Instead of taking a professorship at a university, he decided to study growing plants first hand, and he became a member of the staff of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Hyderabad, India. He became a consultant to the institute in 1978.

In 1966, Sheldrake was associated with the Epiphany Philosophers, a group of scientists and philosophers at Cambridge University concerned with exploring interconnections between science, philosophy, and mysticism. This contact stimulated his early ideas on formative causation. Other influences were the theories of Henri Bergson and Hans Driesch.


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

Sheldrake, Rupert. A New Science of Life: the Hypothesis of Formative Causation. London: Blond & Briggs; Los Angeles: J. P. Tarcher, 1981.

. The Presence of the Past. New York: New York Times Books, 1988.

. The Rebirth of Nature: The Greening of Science and God. New York: Bantam, 1990.

. Seven Experiments That Could Change the World: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Revolutionary Science. n.p.: Riverhead Books,1995.

Sheldrake, Rupert and Matthew Fox. Natural Grace. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1996.