29 January 2015

W. Grey Walter and my DPhil thesis

copy of a letter to an academic

W. Grey Walter
Writing about the Perrott Studentship with which I returned to Oxford in an ostensibly normal way, much to Dame Janet Vaughan’s chagrin, has reminded me how extreme was the misrepresentation of the situation with regard to experimental work and my thesis.

From the very first, my intention was to make correlations between the psychological and the physiological, to work towards a better understanding of some of the anomalous experiences that people reported. None of my supervisors were prepared to help me get facilities for experimental work; they recognised my interest in working towards such things only by providing me with reviews of the literature in areas in which experiments might be done.

Dr Graham Weddell* said, ‘If you want to make correlations, the most obviously relevant area would be in working with EEGs, so I will arrange for Dr Grey Walter to be your supervisor, as he is the great expert in that field.’ But Grey Walter also would only provide me with book lists and surveys of the literature. I was constantly applying in various directions for funding and facilities to do experimental work, but received no support in doing this.

Grey Walter** said that he would not support my applications because if there was any funding to be had, he would want it for himself. In fact he did receive funding from the Parapsychology Foundation in New York to do experimental work on a supposed medium. I do not know why he should not have received money from the Parapsychology Foundation to do experiments himself, even if they had also funded my DPhil project.

I hope to write about this in more detail later, but there was no doubt in my mind that I was aiming at doing experimental work all the time I was working on my postgraduate degree.

* Graham Weddell was a physiology lecturer at Oxford who later became Professor of Anatomy.
** W. Grey Walter was a researcher at the Burden Neurological Institute near Bristol who later became a professor at Aix-Marseilles.