21g is weight of soul in human body: A Scientific Experiment of Dr.MacDougall

On 10th April 1901, Dr. Duncan "om" MacDougall conducted an unusual experiment to prove that humans have soul. According to MacDougall if soul is consider as Matter & it is present in human body then it must have some mass. To calculate mass of soul Dr.MacDougall have to measure weight of human body before & after death.To measure accurate weight macdougall made a custom weight measure machine on which he kept dying patient & wait until patient die naturally without any external cause. He choose TB(tuberculosis)
patients as his test subject because of 2 major reasons:

  • in 1901 cure TB was not known so patient dye naturally
  • at the time of death TB patients die without any heavy movement of muscles or body, hence weight scale can not be disturbed & give more accurate reading. 

  In the company of four other doctors, Dr. MacDougall carefully measured the weight of his first patient prior to his death. Once the patient died, an interesting event occurred.
Suddenly, coincident with death,” wrote Macdougall, “the beam end dropped with an audible stroke hitting against the lower limiting bar and remaining there with no rebound. The loss was ascertained to be three-fourths of an ounce.”
It means his 1st patient loss some amount of weight at the time of death & weight measures is 21g.
He continued on the next patient with the same results.  Dr. MacDougall felt he was on to something extraordinary.  A quote from the 11 March 1907 New York Times article captures the historic moment:
“ The instant life ceased the opposite scale pan fell with a suddenness that was astonishing – as if something had been suddenly lifted from the body.  Immediately all the usual deductions were made for physical loss of weight, and it was discovered that there was still a full ounce of weight unaccounted for”.

Macdougall team of 4 doctors take their own reading & none of the reading were same. Not all patient loss same amount of weight but they did loss some amount of weight which was unaccounted for.Only 4 out of 6 
patient's weight was considered & other 2 readings were not noted due to machine failure or the patient dying prior to the test equipment being in place.

In this experiment one thing was common was weight loss at the time of death & all patient show different weight loss. To prove his theory Macdougall  has taken everything into account, from the air in the lungs to bodily fluids.  It still could not be explained weight loss.  An interesting variation occurred on the third patient, who maintained his same weight immediately upon death. But after one minute, he lost about an ounce of weight.  Dr. MacDougall explained this discrepancy as follows:

“ I believe that in this case, that of a phlegmatic man slow of thought and action, that the soul remained suspended in the body after death, during the minute that elapsed before its freedom.  There is no other way of accounting for it, and it is what might be expected to happen in a man of the subject’s temperament”.
In 1911 Dr.MacDougall had stop the experiment due to low funds & religious belief of people.

Is this experiment prove the presence of soul in human, we will never know unless some one try this experiment with modern technology.

Download Dr. Macdougall's Original research paper

 Devesh Chaudhari



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