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Agénor de Gasparin

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Agénor de Gasparin
Born12 July 1810
Died4 May 1871 (1871-05-05) (aged 60)
Occupation(s)Statesman, psychical researcher, writer

Agénor Étienne, comte de Gasparin (12 July 1810 – 4 May 1871) was a French statesman and author. He was also an early psychical researcher known for conducting experiments into table-tipping.


He was born at Orange, Vaucluse, the son of Adrien de Gasparin. In 1836 he entered the service of his father, then minister of the interior, as chief of a department, became master of requests in the Council of State in 1837, and in 1842 was elected to the Chamber of Deputies from Bastia in Corsica. He was an advocate of religious liberty, prison reform, abolition of slavery, and the rights of the Protestant church, of which he was a member. His independence was not relished by the government, and his sympathy for Protestantism was not shared by his constituents. He was thus voted out of office in 1846, and put all of his enthusiasm into his written work.

When the revolution of 1848 took place, he was asked to declare himself in favor of the new constitution. He refused. His disapproval of the form later given to the government by Louis Napoleon was even stronger, and he permanently moved to Switzerland.

From 1849 until his death, he lived at Geneva. In the winter, he delivered courses of lectures on economical, historical, and religious subjects, many of which were subsequently published. During the Franco-German War he addressed an appeal to the French people urging them not to persevere in it. His death was hastened by his exertions in the care of refugees from Bourbaki's army, whom he received into his house.


In 1853, Gasparin with a group of his friends conducted experiments into table-tipping at his home. The experiments were conducted over a period of five months. He recorded the activity of table movements which he believed were the result of a physical force emanating from the bodies of the sitters. He proposed a theory of fluidic action (termed "ectenic force"), which he believed could explain the phenomena.[1]

Professor Marc Thury (1822-1905) from the University of Geneva who also attended some of the experiments supported Gasparin's conclusions in a pamphlet in 1855,[2] and conducted some of his own experiments in which similar results were obtained.[3] The physicist and spiritualist William Crookes was influenced by Gasparin's experiments.[4] The experiments were also endorsed by A. Campbell Holms.[5]

Camille Flammarion provided summaries of the work of de Gasparin and Thury.[6] Critics like Frank Podmore argued that the conditions were insufficient to prevent trickery.[7][8]

The table-tipping experiments were heavily criticized by Louis Figuier. He noted that Gasperin's claim of the movement of tables without material contact was a "physical impossibility" and that he was never able to reproduce the phenomena before the French scientific community. He stated that "to admit reality of the elevation of a table, without any contact, it would have to be reproduced several times, and at will, in experiences with other observers. This has never arrived; which leads one to conclude that any connivance slipped into the experiments."[9]


He published numerous articles in the Journal des Débats and the Revue des Deux Mondes. Among his books were:

On the separation of church and state:

  • Les intérêts généraux du protestantisme français (1843)
  • Christianisme et paganisme (Christianity and Paganism; 2 vols. 8vo, 1846)

On the abolition of slavery:

  • Esclavage et traite (1838)
  • Un grand peuple qui se relève, argues for the justice of the Union cause in the American Civil War (The Uprising of a Great People, 1861)
  • L'Amérique devant l'Europe, another book advocating the Union cause (America Before Europe, 1862)

On the reform of home life:

  • La famille, ses devoirs, ses joies et ses douleurs (2 vols. 12mo, 1865)
  • La liberté morale (1863)
  • La conscience (1872)
  • L'ennemi de la famille (1874)

On the Franco-German War:

  • La déclaration de guerre, un protêt (1870)
  • La république neutre d'Alsace (1870)
  • Appel au patriotisme et au bon sens (1871)

Other works:

His biography of Innocent III, Vie d'Innocent III, was published posthumously in 1873.


His wife, Valérie Boissier de Gasparin, was a noted writer.


  1. ^ Anderson, Rodger. (2006). Psychics, Sensitives and Somnambules: A Biographical Dictionary with Bibliographies. McFarland & Company. pp. 68-69. ISBN 978-0786427703
  2. ^ Podmore, Frank. (1897). Studies in Psychical Research. New York: Putnam. p. 44
  3. ^ Carrington, Hereward. (2007, originally published 1939). Laboratory Investigations into Psychic Phenomena. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing. p. 44
  4. ^ Crookes, William. (1874). Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism. London: James Burns. pp. 26-27
  5. ^ Holms, A. Campbell. (1927). The Facts of Psychic Science and Philosophy. Occult Press. pp. 276-277
  6. ^ Flammarion, Camille. (1907). Mysterious Psychic Forces. Small, Maynard And Company. pp. 229-288
  7. ^ Podmore, Frank. (1897). Studies in Psychical Research. New York: Putnam. p. 47 "If neither the feet nor the hands of the sitters could be employed, the knees could apparently have been used without much risk, and Thury clearly could not watch both the upper and under surfaces simultaneously. On the whole, though the experiments were conducted with care and a laudable desire not to exaggerate the importance of the facts observed, the experimenters do not appear to have sufficiently realised the possibilities of fraud; and their results add little evidence for action of a psychic, or, as Thury has preferred to name it, ectenic force."
  8. ^ Chisholm, Hugh. (1911). The Encyclopaedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information, Volumes 25-26. New York. p. 337. "It is doubtful from the description of the experiments whether the precautions taken were sufficient to exclude unconscious muscular action or even deliberate fraud."
  9. ^ Figuier, Louis. (1880). Les Mystéres De La Science. Paris: Librairie Illustree. p. 579

Further reading[edit]

  • Naville, Le Comte Agénor de Gasparin (Geneva, 1871)
  • Théodore Borel, Le Comte Agénor de Gasparin (2d ed., Paris, 1879; Eng. trans. by Oliver O. Howard, Count Agénor de Gasparin, New York, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1881)
  • Bar Fey-Boisier, La Comtesse Agnes de Gasparin et sa famille; correspondance et souvenirs, 1813–1894 (2 vols., Paris, 1902)

External links[edit]