Donald West

SPR is sad to share the news that Prof. West died on Jan 31, 2020 at age 95.  The Times has published an extensive obituary.


Prof. Donald J. West, MD, DLitt, FRCPsych, joined the SPR as a teenager and from 1941 to the present has made intermittent contributions to the Journal and Proceedings of the Society, including two surveys of apparitions and a series of collaborative ESP researches with the late G.W. Fisk, for which they received jointly the McDougall Award, 1958, for disgtinguished work in parapsychology. He was full-time paid Research Officer from 1946 for 3 years, serving subsequently as Hon. Research Officer and in various other capacities since, becoming President in 1963. His Penguin book Psychical Research Today (1954) was revised in 1962. He has served for many years as a member of the SPR Research Grants Committee and the Management Committee of the Perrott-Warrick Fund at Trinity College, Cambridge, and received the Myers Memorial Medal in 1997.

He was born on 9 June 1924 in Liverpool and studied at Liverpool University. He did postgraduate work at London University and Cambridge University. He studied criminology at Cambridge University. After his retirement in 1984 he was named the Emeritus Professor of Clinical Criminology, University of Cambridge. He is also an Emeritus Fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge. He is particularly known for his books Homosexuality (1955) and Murder Followed by Suicide (1966).

In Psychical Research Today (1953, 1962), West was critical of physical mediumship and took a psychological approach to some paranormal phenomena but accepted extrasensory perception as proven. In Eleven Lourdes Miracles (1957) he concluded that miracles have not been proven to have occurred at the famous Lourdes shrine.

Selected Publications


Sex Crimes (1994)

Sexual Crimes and Confrontations: A Study of Victims and Offenders (1987)

The Young Offender (1976)

Senior Course in Criminology: Drug Abuse the Changing Situation (1968)

Murder Followed by Suicide (1966)

Present conduct and future delinquency: First report

Delinquency: Its roots, Careers and Prospects. (1982)

Drug Abuse: The Changing Situation: Senior Course in Criminology (1968)


with John Carl Flugel, A Hundred Years of Psychology 1833-1933 [(1964)

Homosexuality (1955)

with Richard Green, Sociolegal Control of Homosexuality: A Multi-Nation Comparison , New York, Kluwer Academic Publishers (2002)

Psychical Research

with Betty Markwick, 'Dr Soal: A Psychic Enigma.'  Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 60 (2018)

Eleven Lourdes Miracles (1957)

'Psychokinetic Experiments with a Single Subject', Parapsychology Newsletter (November–December 1957)

'ESP and Mood: Report of a "Mass" Experiment with Clock Cards', Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 38 (1956)

Tests for Extrasensory Perception: An Introductory Guide (1954)

Psychical Research Today (1953)

'The Identity of Jack the Ripper', Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 35 (1949)