50 YEARS AGO
The Haunting of Borley Rectory — This account of the evidence for abnormal happenings in what the late Harry Price described as “the most haunted house in England” well maintains the tradition of the Society for Psychical Research for honest and cautious study of alleged parapsychological phenomena. A heavy task was undertaken at the invitation of the Society by three trained investigators. Their story is at times as interesting as a detective novel; it reveals queer actions of some very curious people; it leaves very little to be explained of the actual haunt itself and a good deal to be puzzled over in the motives, actions and reactions of the people principally concerned. The general conclusion is that credulity, malobservation, trickery and fraud account for the great bulk of the recorded evidence.
From Nature 31 March 1956.
100 YEARS AGO
The System of the Stars. By Agnes M. Clerke — There is much excellent sense in the French proverb, “Prends le premier conseil d'une femme, et non le second,” which expresses the view that the intuitive instinct of a woman is a safer guide to follow than her reasoning faculties; and although in these days it is considered ungracious to make this suggestion, evidence of its truth is not difficult to discover in most literary products of the feminine mind. It is no disparagement to Miss Clerke to say that even she shares this characteristic of her sex, so that sometimes she lets her sympathies limit her range of vision in the field of stellar research. No doubt this disposition is exercised unconsciously, but what is an attractive instinct when applied to ordinary affairs of life is derogatory when it influences the historiographic consideration of contributions to natural knowledge.
From Nature 29 March 1906.