Mediums and Science in Early 20th Century Europe

Filippo Bottazzi and His Method of Graphic Recording

in Nuncius
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Abstract

This paper investigates and contextualizes the contribution made by the Italian physiologist Filippo Bottazzi (1867–1941) to research on mediumistic phenomena in Europe at the beginning of the 1900s, focusing on his investigation of the claims of Eusapia Palladino’s powers, a well-known Italian physical medium who inspired the “conversion” of Cesare Lombroso. Bottazzi’s work, conducted between 1906 and 1909, is compared to that of colleagues in Italy and elsewhere and analysed in the light of the scientific methodology that he used in his research as a physiologist. This paper will review the events that led Bottazzi to take an interest in mediumship, and analyse how he designed and conducted his experiments and the conclusions that he drew from them. Particular attention will be focused on the methods and the scientific instruments that he used in his psychical research, which were in keeping with his Positivist epistemological views, as is shown by an essay on the scientific method that he wrote in the same period.

Nuncius

Journal of the Material and Visual History of Science (Formerly: Annali dell'Istituto e Museo di storia della scienza di Firenze)

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Figures

  • Figure 1

    Negative of an invisible hand taken by Foà, Aggazzotti and Herlitzka, and published by Cesare Lombroso in Ricerche sui fenomeni ipnotici e spiritici (Torino: Unione Tipografico Editrice Torinese, 1909), p. 183, fig. 43

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  • Figure 2

    Manometer graph published in Cesare Lombroso, Ricerche sui fenomeni ipnotici e spiritici (Torino: Unione Tipografico Editrice Torinese, 1909), p. 182, fig. 42

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  • Figure 3ab

    Electric key with spring, before (a) and after (b) the séance of 27th April 1907. In Filippo Bottazzi, Fenomeni medianici osservati in una serie di sedute fatte con Eusapia Paladino (Napoli: Francesco Perrella Editore, 1909), figs. 7, 9.

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  • Figure 4

    Two graphs obtained during the séance of 27th April 1907 using the kymograph, with data traced by the stylus of an electric key which appears visibly bent (upper graph), and a second stylus connected to another telegraph key and placed inside a cardboard box that, as can be seen (lower graph), was not triggered that night. In Filippo Bottazzi, Fenomeni medianici osservati in una serie di sedute fatte con Eusapia Paladino (Napoli: Francesco Perrella Editore, 1909), fig. 10.

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  • Figure 5

    Electrical contacts attached to the feet of the table. When the foot (P) of the table was lifted from the floor, the key (B) came out of both the cylindrical hole (T), whereas the metallic disk (Z), moving towards the opening crossed two metallic blades (M, M’), each bound to the pole of a battery or an accumulator. This metallic disk (Z), when in contact with M and M’, closes the electrical circuit and triggers a Deprez signal.

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  • Figure 6

    Graph from the séance held on 26th June 1905

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