Eleonore Mildred Sidgwick 

(nee Balfour; 11 March 1845 -- 10 February 1936)

 

 

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File:Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick.jpg

Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick

(nee Balfour; 11 March 1845 -- 10 February 1936)

This Portrait is by Sir James Jebusa Shannon in who lived (1862-1923)

Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick, (nee Balfour; 11 March 1845 – 10 February 1936),[1] known as Nora to her family and friends, was an activist for the higher education of women, Principal of Newnham College of the University of Cambridge, and a leading figure in the Society for Psychical Research.

Eleanor Mildred Balfour was born in East Lothian, daughter of James Maitland Balfour and Lady Blanche Harriet. She was born into perhaps the most prominent political clan in 19th-century Britain, the 'Hotel Cecil': her brother Arthur would eventually himself become prime minister. Another brother, Frank, a biologist, died young in a climbing accident.

One of the first students at Newnham College in Cambridge, in 1876 she married (and became converted to feminism by) the philosopher Henry Sidgwick. In 1880 she became Vice-Principal of Newnham under the founding Principal Anne Clough, succeeding as principal on Clough's death in 1892. She and her husband resided there until 1900, the year of Henry Sidgwick's death. In 1894 Sidgwick was one of the first three women to serve on a royal commission, the Bryce commission on Secondary Education.

As a young woman, Eleanor had helped Rayleigh improve the accuracy of experimental measurement of electrical resistance; she subsequently turned her careful experimental mind to the question of testing the veracity of claims for psychical phenomena. She was elected President of the Society for Psychical Research in 1908 and named President of Honour in 1932.

She was a member of the Ladies Dining Society in Cambridge, with 11 other members.

In 1916 Sidgwick left Cambridge to live with one of her brothers near Woking, where she remained until her death in 1936.

She was awarded honorary degrees by the universities of Manchester, Edinburgh, St Andrews and Birmingham.[2]

Most of her writings related to psychical research, and are contained in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research. However, some related to educational matters, and a couple of essays dealt with the morality of international affairs.

1. Guiley (1992), pp. 302–303.

2.’Sidgwick [nee Balfour], Eleanor Mildred’. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. Retrieved 25 October 2013. (subscription or UK public library membership required)

Bibliography

Guiley, Rosemary Ellen (1992). The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. Facts On File. ISBN 0-8160-2140-6.

THE ELDEST of eight children born to J. M. Balfour and Blanche, daughter of the second Lord Salisbury. Among her brothers were Arthur Balfour, who became Prime Minister; Francis, an outstanding biologist who died young in a mountaineering accident, and Gerald, a philosopher. Deeply interested in pure mathematics, which she thought 'specially suited to a disembodied existence', she collaborated with her brother-in-law,  Lord Rayleigh in experimental work on electrical standards of measurement, and in three papers published in the  Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. In 1874 she sat with various Physical Mediums but was not impressed. She married  Henry Sidgwick in 1876. Closely connected with Newnham College all her life, she served as its Treasurer for many years, and as its Principal from 1892 to 1910.

 

 She joined the Society for Psychical Research; SPR; in 1884, edited its  Journal and  Proceedings from 1888 to 1897, became a Council member in 1901, and was Honorary Secretary from 1907 to 1932. An admirable administrator, she also contributed many reports to the Society, reports which exemplified her clarity of thought, her energy and her enormous industry. Among them were studies of  Mrs Piper's trance phenomena (she thought her 'control' was 'some element of her own consciousness') and of  Mrs Leonard's Book Tests, in which she suggested that clairvoyance might be involved; she also wrote on  Gilbert Murray's telepathy experiments. She helped to compile  Phantasms of the Living and the first Census of Hallucinations, and wrote many papers for  Proceedings from one on 'Phantasms of the Dead' in 1885 to one on 'The History of the SPR' in 1932.

 Mrs Salter, who had known her for many years both at home and at Cambridge said in an article setting out her brilliant, solid work, 'I never remember hearing her make anything that could be called a joke', but paid tribute to her 'twin qualities of intellect and character'.

Source (with minor modifications):  The Society for Psychical Research, 1882-1982: A History by Renee Haynes (1982, Macdonald & Co (Publishers) Ltd, London).

 

 

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