50. Professor Brian Josephson
Thinkers (144 votes)
Nobel prize-winning physicist who discovered the Josephson Effect before becoming a “pioneer of the paranormal.”
In the early 1960’s, physics lecturers at Cambridge University learned to take particular care when a certain young man from Cardiff was in the class. According to contemporaries, Brian Josephson could sniff a flawed proposition a mile off. Errant dons risked polite demolition afterwards.
In little more than a decade this formidable intellect would bring him not only a Cambridge professorship but also the highest scientific honour of all: a Nobel Prize.
He discovered how an electrical current could flow between two superconductors (materials with zero electrical resistance) even when an insulator was placed between them. This became known as the “Josephson Effect”, a phenomenon of such significance that it has entered the dictionary.
The theory has been applied to create extremely sensitive scientific instruments using “Josephson Junctions”. They are capable, for example, of measuring the magnetic field surrounding a mouse’s brain.
The connection between advanced physics and the inner workings of the brain is the basis of Professor Josephson’s current interest in the paranormal.
Undeterred by scepticism bordering on outright hostility from other academic notables, he has tried to find a scientific basis for paranormal phenomena such as telepathy and spoon-bending.
In a 2001 booklet for the Royal Mail accompanying the release of a set of commemorative Nobel Prize stamps he said that recent scientific developments: “may lead to an explanation of processes still not understood within conventional science such as telepathy, an area where Britain is at the forefront of research.”
It caused a storm among his peers, the majority of whom maintain that the paranormal simply does not exist. Josephson points out that telepathy experiments have consistently produced results that cannot be explained by mere probability.
While the respectable scientific community still tends to shy away from it, the involvement of someone of Brian Josephson’s stature makes the paranormal all the more intriguing a subject.
His guiding principle, he says, is “nullius in verba” - take nobody’s word for it.