Ian Stevenson

Ian Stevenson

Ian Pretyman Stevenson (October 31, 1918 – February 8, 2007) was a Canadian psychiatrist. He worked for the University of Virginia School of Medicine for 50 years, as chair of the department of psychiatry from 1957 to 1967, Carlson Professor of Psychiatry from 1967 to 2001, and Research Professor of Psychiatry from 2002 until his death.

Stevenson was the founder and director of the university's Division of Perceptual Studies, which investigates the paranormal, and became known internationally for his research into reincarnation, the idea that emotions, memories, and even physical injuries in the form of birthmarks, can be transferred from one life to another. He traveled extensively over a period of 40 years investigating 3,000 cases of children claiming to remember past lives.

Stevenson's position was that certain phobias, philias, unusual abilities and illnesses could not be explained by heredity or the environment, and that personality transfer provided a third type of explanation, though he was never able to suggest what kind of physical process might be involved. He helped to found the Society for Scientific Exploration in 1982, and was the author of around 300 papers and 14 books on reincarnation, including Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation (1966) and European Cases of the Reincarnation Type (2003). His major work was the 2,268-page, two-volume Reincarnation and Biology: A Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects (1997), which reported 200 cases of birthmarks that he believed corresponded with a wound on the deceased person whose life the child purported to recall. He wrote a shorter version of the same research for the general reader, Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect (1997).

Reaction to his work was mixed. The New York Times wrote that his supporters saw him as a misunderstood genius, but most scientists ignored his work, regarding him as earnest but gullible. His life and work became the subject of two supportive books, Old Souls (1999) by Tom Shroder, a Washington Post journalist, and Life Before Life (2005) by Jim B. Tucker, a psychiatrist and colleague at the University of Virginia. Critics raised a number of issues, including that the children he interviewed or their parents had deceived him; that interviewing children without suggesting material to them is difficult; that the difficulties were compounded by Stevenson working through translators who believed what the children were saying; and that his conclusions were undermined by confirmation bias, where cases not supportive of his hypothesis did not count against it.

Read more about Ian StevensonPersonal Life and Education, Retirement, Death and Experiment, Works

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Famous quotes containing the word stevenson:

    I am so wrapped, and throughly lapped of jolly good ale and old!
    —William Stevenson (1530?–1575)