Targ was born in Chicago. He is a son of William Targ, former editor-in-chief of G.P. Putnam's, where his father was editor and publisher of "The Godfather". Russell was a brother-in-law of former World Chess Champion, the late Bobby Fischer. He was married to Joan Targ, Bobby's sister, who died in 1998. Russell and Joan had a daughter, Elisabeth Targ, who was a psychiatrist, and two sons Alexander, a physician, and Nicholas, an attorney.
Targ received a Bachelor of Science in physics from Queens College in 1954 and did graduate work in physics at Columbia University. He received two National Aeronautics and Space Administration awards for inventions and contributions in lasers and laser communications.
Targ is also an editor, publisher, songwriter, producer and teacher. In 1997 he retired from Lockheed Martin as a project manager and senior staff scientist, where he developed laser technology for airborne detection of wind shear and air turbulence. He has published more than a hundred papers on lasers, plasma physics, laser applications, electro-optics, and psychical research.
At the Stanford Research Institute in the 1970s and 1980s, Targ and his colleague Harold E. Puthoff co-founded a 23-year, $25-million program of research into psychic abilities and their operational use for the U.S. intelligence community, including the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency and Army Intelligence. These abilities are referred to collectively as "remote viewing". Targ and Puthoff both expressed the belief that Uri Geller, retired police commissioner Pat Price and artist Ingo Swann all had genuine psychic abilities. They published their findings in Nature and the Proceedings of the IEEE. From 1972 to 1995 the program was classified SECRET and compartmentalized with Limited Access. That is to say, the program was not only classified, but every single person who was informed about the program had to personally sign a so-called bigot list, to acknowledge that they had been exposed to the program data.
Targ's autobiography, Do You See What I See: Memoirs of a Blind Biker, was published in 2008, and describes his life as a scientist and legally blind motorcyclist. Targ lectures worldwide on remote viewing. He now resides in Palo Alto, California with his second wife, Patricia.
Uri Geller was studied by Targ and Harold Puthoff at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Targ and Puthoff declared to have demonstrated that Geller had genuine psychic powers, though flaws were found with the controls in the experiments and Geller was caught using sleight of hand on many other occasions. According to Terence Hines:
Geller turned out to be nothing more than a magician using sleight of hand and considerable personal charm to fool his admirers. The tests at SRI turned out to have been run under conditions that can best be described as chaotic. Few limits were placed on Geller’s behavior, and he was more or less in control of the procedures used to test him. Further, the results of the tests were incorrectly reported in Targ and Puthoff’s Nature paper.
The psychologists David Marks and Richard Kammann attempted to replicate Targ and Harold Puthoff’s remote viewing experiments. In a series of thirty-five studies, they were unable to replicate the results so investigated the procedure of the original experiments. Marks and Kammann discovered that the notes given to the judges in Targ and Puthoff's experiments contained clues as to which order they were carried out, such as referring to yesterday's two targets, or they had the date of the session written at the top of the page. They concluded that these clues were the reason for the experiment's high hit rates. Terence Hines has written:
Examination of the few actual transcripts published by Targ and Puthoff show that just such clues were present. To find out if the unpublished transcripts contained cues, Marks and Kammann wrote to Targ and Puthoff requesting copies. It is almost unheard of for a scientist to refuse to provide his data for independent examination when asked, but Targ and Puthoff consistently refused to allow Marks and Kammann to see copies of the transcripts. Marks and Kammann were, however, able to obtain copies of the transcripts from the judge who used them. The transcripts were found to contain a wealth of cues.
It was revealed that subjects were able to match the transcripts to the correct locations using only the cues provided. When these cues were eliminated the results fell to a chance level. James Randi has written controlled tests by several other researchers, eliminating several sources of cuing and extraneous evidence present in the original tests, produced negative results. Students were also able to solve Puthoff and Targ's locations from the clues that had inadvertently been included in the transcripts.
Marks and Kamman concluded: "Until remote viewing can be confirmed in conditions which prevent sensory cueing the conclusions of Targ and Puthoff remain an unsubstantiated hypothesis."
- Russell Targ, Limitless Mind: A Guide to Remote Viewing and Transformation of Consciousness
- Russell Targ. The Reality of ESP: A Physicist's Proof of Psychic Abilities. (April 2012)
- End of Suffering: Fearless Living in Troubled Times (with Dr. James Hurtak)
- Mind Reach: Scientists Look at Psychic Abilities (with Dr. Harold Puthoff)
- The Mind Race: Understanding and Using Psychic Abilities (with Dr. Keith Harary)
- Miracles of Mind: Remote Viewing and Spiritual Healing (with Dr. Jane Katra)
- The Heart of the Mind: How to Experience God Without Belief (with Dr. Jane Katra)
On lasers and wind shear
- Russell Targ and Lawrence Ames, "Lidar wind sensing at cruise altitude for flight-level optimization," Proc. SPIE Aerosense-96, Orlando FL, April 8-12, 1996.
- Russell Targ, Roland Bowles, Michael Kavaya, and R. Milton Huffaker, "Coherent Lidar Airborne Windshear Sensor: Performance Evaluation," Applied Optics, 20 May 1991.
- Russell Targ, Bruce C. Steakley, James G. Hawley, Paul Forney, Robert G. Otto, Philip Brockman, and Sarah R. Harrell, "Coherent lidar airborne wind sensor II: flight test results at 2 µm and 10 µm," Applied Optics, 20 December 1996.
On remote viewing
- Targ, R. and Puthoff, H. (1975) “Information transfer under conditions of sensory shielding.” Nature, 251, 602-607.
- Puthoff, H.E. & Targ, R. (March, 1976). “A Perceptual Channel for Information Transfer over kilometer distances: Historical perspective and recent research.” Proc. IEEE, Vol. 64, no. 3, March, pp. 329-354;
- Rauscher, E. A., & Targ, R. (2006). Investigation of a complex space-time metric to describe precognition of the future. AIP Conference Proceedings, 863, 121-146.
- Gardner, M (2001). "Notes of a Fringe-Watcher: Distant Healing and Elisabeth Targ". Skeptical Inquirer. Retrieved 2011-01-07.
- Gale Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology: Russell Targ
- Mind-Reach: Scientists Look at Psychic Abilities, by Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff, Dell Pub Co., 1978
- R. Targ, and H,E, Puthoff, H.E "Information transfer under conditions of sensory shielding," Nature, 251, 602-607. (1974) doi:10.1038/251602a0.
- Puthoff, H.E. and Targ, R. "A Perceptual Channel for Information Transfer over kilometer distances: Historical perspective and recent research." Proc. IEEE, Vol. 64, no. 3, 329-254. (1976)
- James Randi. (1982). The Truth about Uri Geller. Prometheus Books.
- Terence Hines. (2003). Pseudoscience and the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. p. 126
- David Marks, Richard Kammann. (1978). Information transmission in remote viewing experiments. Nature 274: 680–81.
- David Marks. (1981). Sensory cues invalidate remote viewing experiments. Nature 292: 177.
- Terence Hines. (2003). Pseudoscience and the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. p. 135
- David Marks, Richard Kammann. (1980). The Psychology of the Psychic. Prometheus Books.
- James Randi. (1997). "Remote viewing" in An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural. St. Martin's Griffin.
- C. E. M. Hansel. (1980). ESP and Parapsychology: A Critical Reevaluation. Prometheus Books. p. 293
- Simon Hoggart, Mike Hutchinson. (1995). Bizarre Beliefs. Richard Cohen Books. p. 151
- ESPResearch.com - Russell Targ's site