Thoughts and spirits by wireless: imagining and building psychic telegraphs in America and Britain, circa 1900-1930
History and Technology: an international journal
Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Reason for embargo
This paper revises current understandings of the connections between electrical and psychic forms of communication in the early twentieth century. It builds on and moves beyond scholarly studies that explore the metaphorical and analogical uses of electrical communication in understanding telepathy, spiritualism and other psychic phenomena. I argue that in American and British cultures of wireless telegraphy, electrical experimentation, psychical research and spiritualism, there were sincere attempts to extend electrical-psychic analogies into technological thinking and realisation. Inspired by debates about telepathy, brain waves and other psychic effects, members of these cultures imagined and constructed electrical communication technologies that would address a range of psychic puzzles. Although the technological solutions to psychic puzzles ultimately proved inconclusive, they provide historians with striking insights into the role of ‘irrational’ topics in shaping imagined and actual technological development.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Taylor & Francis via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 32 (2), pp. 137-158