The human soul – Innumerable books have been written about, this rather common topic, by people as different as - ascetics, poets and philosophers. In most of these texts, soul of humans has been described as a part of the spiritual domain, which is totally separate from scientific logic. However, there have been many people in history of mankind, who have refused to see things in just black and white. They have tried very carefully to judge things, on much deeper level & go way beyond the superficial appearance of things. One of these exceptional men was – Duncan MacDougall, who tried to find evidence of human soul by using much more scientific methodology, which can be acceptable to all people. Did he succeed? He believed he did. However, not many people supported his claims. His story is as follows & everyone is free to decide, what they want to believe.
An article from a Newspaper created quite a stir in 1907, when it was reported that a physician from Haverhill, Massachusetts has tried the impossible. Duncan MacDougall tried to prove the existence of the soul, by a series of scientific experiments (which started in 1901), which he believed could be acceptable to all and could also be reproduced in the future. His experiment was based on the presumption that a living person has a soul, having some weight. This weight though only a minuscule, when compared to the total body weight of a human, was significant enough to be measured. His control group consisted of dogs, who he believed did not have a soul (& so would not show any change of weight after death).
To prove his view, he chose 6 terminally ill patients in a nursing home, who were at their deathbed. They suffered from diseases like Tuberculosis and Diabetes and were pretty exhausted to make any forceful sudden movement, which could alter the results of the experiment. All factors which could create difference in the final results, like - air in the lungs, urination or passage of faeces; just before and immediately after death, were accounted for. The good doctor was quite sincere and meticulous in his efforts to prove his hypotheses.
At the time of death of these unfortunate people, their hospital beds were placed on a very accurate measuring machine, which could measure difference in amount, as small as 5.6 grams. The weight of the patients, before death and immediately after death was compared. The same was done, with bodies of 15 dogs, who had recently died and were the control group, for comparison. Many believe, that these dogs were poisoned by the doctor, as terminally ill dogs on their last moments could not be found.
The results obtained from the 6 people were studied. The results for two of them, were not considered, because the measurements in these two cases couldn’t be done properly, at the time of death. Of the remaining 4 cases, they all showed different results; although the weight loss (just below or above 1 ounce) was found in all the bodies after death, with the average around 21 grams. In the first case in this series of 6 cases, measurements were done on April 10, 1901; which showed weight loss of 21 grams (or 3/4th of an ounce, 1 ounce being approximately 28 grams). The dogs who died however, showed no change in weight.
The weight loss was due to the weight of soul leaving the body, was the conclusion reached by the good doctor. The absence of any weight loss in dogs was interpreted as absence of souls in dogs and animals in general.
Whenever a radical announcement is made in the scientific community, it always evokes strong emotions from different sections of the intelligentsia and the ordinary members of the society. This happened in MacDougall’s case also. Sceptics found faults in different facets of the experiment. Many were grossly biased, but some had very strong logical basis in criticism of the experiment.
Some of the points, which were strongly criticised were – small sample size, flawed methods of determining exact moment of death (considering the fact that, it was early 20th century) & weight measurements, suspected killing of the dogs by poison and finally the observation that only 1 out of the 6 people observed had exactly loss of 21 grams of weight (although 3 more had showed weight loss, which also were a bit more or less), and this was interpreted as a reporting bias.
One sceptic doctor put forward the theory that, an increased sweating around the time of death, may be responsible for the loss of the weight observed in the MacDougall’s experiment and lack of sweat glands (& hence sweating) in dogs was the reason that similar weight loss was not seen in the canines. The support of this logic also was also made by many other intellectuals, who observed that even if a human body loses some amount of weight at the time of death, more evidences would be needed to prove that, it was specifically due to the soul leaving the body & not due to some other reasons.
The Doctor had hopes that he would be able to pursue his research on the subject further in future. However, the unwarranted attention and negative publicity, dashed his hopes of finding organizations and volunteers to take his research further. He also believed that in future, more doctors would conduct researches like his. Unfortunately, the ostracization that MacDougall faced, made other health professionals awry of pursuing similar course of action. MacDougall himself however, remained unfazed by criticism & believed to his last breath that he had discovered the existence of the soul and its weight.
“Nothing is more powerful than an idea, whose time has come” – Victor Hugo
One of the last known important incidents regarding Duncan MacDougall’s life, was in 1911, when the doctor was once again in the news, for trying to photograph the soul leaving the human body (after a person’s death) by using X Rays. However, such was the impression regarding the doctor’s work at that time, that no further progress was reported on the matter and gradually the whole incidence was forgotten with time. Everybody believed that Dr Duncan MacDougall’s death in 1920, would be the end of the matter.
However, great minds think alike, as history has shown many times. Almost a century after the above described incidents, another scientist – living on the opposite side of the world, has done some brilliant experiments, which has some similarities to MacDougall’s work. Konstantin Korotkov, a very respectable scientist from Russia, used a bio electrographic camera to photograph a person at the time of his death and showed the life force (? soul) leaving his body.
The Professor of Computer Science and Biophysics, at the St. Petersburg Federal University of Informational Technologies, Optics and Mechanics in Russia – Dr Konstantin Korotkov, is certainly a very qualified person, who has 17 patents in Biophysics inventions and is author of more than 200 papers in respectable journals in physics and biology. So, when a distinguished academic, who has given lectures in 43 countries, in different conferences and seminars, gives his opinion regarding life force leaving the body, the scientific community and other members of intelligentsia certainly pay attention.
The photographs that this Russian scientist has used, to evaluate the changes that takes place, in a person at the time of death, detects the electro photonic light, that can be seen only by special instruments. The Russian scientist took the image at the time of a person’s death, which showed the life force (in blue) leaving a person’s body gradually. The life force (or soul) was lost in a gradual pattern; first from the head and navel area, and last from the heart and groin.
The technique invented by the Russian scientist has found use in much broader context than just what is described above. The Ministry of health of Russia has endorsed Korotkov’s techniques as a part of medical technology. It is believed that more than 300 doctors across the world, have used his technology in some form or the other, for different uses; ranging from stress evaluation to evaluation of treatment in a cancer patient.
Although the work of Konstantin Korotkov certainly had nothing to do with change in weight of the body, before and just after a person’s death; but in spirit it certainly seemed to agree with the findings of Duncan MacDougall. A life force or soul leaving the human body after a person’s death, is something that mystics in the east have believed since ancient times. Has the modern scientific community finally woken up to the fact, that was believed by many, since time immemorial? The above discussion certainly shows that some change of thinking is certainly taking place in certain sections of the society. It is just a matter of time that the truth, or more accurately - the whole truth becomes apparent. Although that may shatter the standard believe of lot many people, but finally the truth would certainly triumph. As they say – you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.