Dr. Ian Stevenson, Radical Scientist

"Either Dr. Stevenson is making a colossal mistake, or he will be known as the Galileo of the 20th century."

--Dr Harold Lief in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease

Dr. Ian Stevenson is a singular phenomenon in reincarnational studies. His work provides the scientific underpinning for anyone who researches or writes about children's past life memories. He is so important, we have devoted an entire section to sharing sample of articles and cases, and his academic writings.

The life work of Dr. Ian Stevenson is probably the best known and most respected collection of scientific data to provide scientific evidence for reincarnation.  Instead of relying on hypnosis to verify that an individual has had a previous life, he collected thousands of cases of children who spontaneously (without hypnosis) remember a past life.  The advantage to this approach is that spontaneous past life memories in children can be investigated using strict scientific protocols.  Hypnosis is unreliable as scientific evidence.

3000 Cases of Past Life Memories

Dr. Stevenson data collection begins with the methodical documentation of a child's statements of a previous life. Then he identifies the deceased person the child remembers being, and verifies the facts of the deceased person's life that match the child's memory.  He even matches birthmarks and birth defects to wounds and scars on the deceased that can be verified by medical records.  His systematic methods are designed to rule out, one by one, all possible "normal" explanations for the child’s memories.

Dr. Stevenson has devoted the last forty years to the scientific documentation of past life memories of children from all over the world. He has over 3000 cases in his files. Scholars and fellow scientists agree that these cases offer the best evidence yet for reincarnation.

Dr. Stevenson's credentials are impeccable.  He had a career as a medical doctor and many scholarly papers to his credit before he began paranormal research. He was the head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia, and then Director of the Division of Personality Studies at the University of Virginia.  Dr. Stevenson worked and published until his death in 2007 at the age of 88.

Why Isn’t Dr. Ian Stevenson Better Known?

So why haven't we heard more about this amazing man and his revolutionary research? One answer is that Ian Stevenson publishes only for the academic and scientific community, and his writing—densely packed with research details and academic argument—is difficult for the average reader to follow.  And he intentionally shuns the popular media to prevent reporters from sensationalizing his research. He refuses to appear on TV or radio, and magazine interviews are rarely granted.

But that doesn’t stop us from calling attention Stevenson’s amazing and vitally important work. We believe his cases are the key to widespread acceptance of reincarnation in the West. And if more people knew about these scientifically documented cases of children’s past lives, they might be more likely to listen when their own young children begin to speak of "when I died before."

Getting the Word Out

We're doing what we can to get the word out about Dr. Stevenson and scientific evidence for reincarnation.  Children's Past Livesintroduces Dr. Stevenson’s work with a whole chapter that translates his academic language into plain English.  Return from Heaven goes further with a chapter that highlights cases from Stevenson’s recent 2200-page book about reincarnational birthmarks, Reincarnation and Biology.

And discussions of Stevenson are alive and well on the Past Life Forum.  Stevenson's work is often referenced in the threads in the "Science of Reincarnation" section in the Past Life Forum.

Dr. Ian Stevenson:  Articles, Interviews, Cases

Past Life Sleuth:  How Dr. Stevenson Investigates Cases.  An excerpt from Children's Past Lives that describes how incredibly thorough Dr. Stevenson is when he collects and screens data for his cases.  If you're new to the work of Dr. Stevenson, this is a good place to start.

A Matter of Death & Life:   Ian Stevenson's Scientific Search for Evidence of Reincarnation    Based on the book by Tom Shroder, this appeared as an article in the Washington Post Magazine in 1999.   Shroder traveled with Stevenson on two of his research trips to Lebanon and India.   He gives a vivid account of how he carries out his research, but also explores the proof issue.

Interview with Dr. Ian Stevenson.  Dr. Stevenson talks about the meaning of his work in this relatively-accessible interview with Venture Inward Magazine.

Omni Magazine Interview with Dr. Ian Stevenson A long and fascinating interview conducted by Omni Magazine in 1988.  Dr. Stevenson comes forth with yet more fascinating and original opinions and insights on the paranormal.

Some of My Journeys in Medicine (Part I). A fascinating lecture in which Dr. Stevenson explains how his dissatisfaction with conventional medicine and psychoanalysis led him to his work. This lecture is a revelation of the breadth and depth of Dr. Stevenson's ideas and erudition, and the logic that led him to challenge some of the basic presumptions of Western medicine. It's long, so we split it into two parts.   (Part I (Part II)

Birthmarks and Birth Defects Corresponding to Wounds on Deceased Persons  Dr. Stevenson's research into the correspondence between birthmarks and past-life wounds is perhaps the most unexpected, shocking part of his work. His last and largest single work (more than 2200 pages) focuses on this physical manifestation of reincarnation. Fortunately he summarized his conclulsions in this relatively readable article. It was first published by Dr. Stevenson in the Journal of Scientific Exploration in 1993.

Sweet Swarnlata.  A summary of one of Dr. Steven's better cases.  It shows what incredible detail some children remember from their past lives.  We included an even shorter form in Children's Past Lives.  Thanks to a friend of the Forum, Carlos Plaza Vegas, we can offer the same case translated into Spanish: Dulce Swarnlata.

Titu, A Case of Double Birthmarks An amazing case of a child who remembered the details of his own murder, and had double birthmarks that corresponded to the fatal wounds.

The Case of Shanti Devi, one of the best-documented cases of children's past life memories--even Gandhi got involved. This case actually pre-dates Stevenson's work in India, but he did do a follow-up investigation. This summary article was written by Dr. K.S. Rawat.


 Thoughts on Believing Evidence:  A Video

In this video, Dr. Robert Almeder examines the logic of believing--or not believing--evidence for reincarnation like that provided by Dr. Stevenson.  Makes you think, without automatically accepting or dismissing the evidence.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZhMDU9GcVg]