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Among London’s spiritualists during the late 19th century, the undisputed queen had to have been Lizzie Nichol Guppy.
Born Agnes Nichol (although she preferred to be called Lizzie when she became an adult) , she would later claim to have been linked to the spirit world all her life (possibly due to being orphaned as an infant). After seeing her first spirit at the age of nine, Lizzie found herself besieged by ghosts and quickly became known to a widening circle of friends and admirers due to her talent as a physical medium. Along with seeing ghosts, she also became well-known for being able to “apport” physical objects such as fresh flowers and fruit. Her career began in 1866 when she first apported flowers at a séance attended by various spiritualists who gravely testified that her mediumship abilities were real. One of the ones attending, whose reputation as a scientist was unimpeachable, was the great biologist (and scientific heretic) Alfred Russel Wallace.
While Wallace was famous for being a co-discoverer of evolution, his fondness for, ahem, unconventional scientific views is not so well-known. Along with being an early opponent of vaccination (and lending considerable scientific legitimacy to the anti-vaccination movement as a result) Alfred Russel Wallace was also an ardent phrenologist and spiritualist. After being introduced to spiritualism in 1865, Wallace began attending séances regularly and this was where he first met Lizzie Nichol. Though Wallace always considered himself to be a skeptical man of science, he was still heavily influenced by his favourite sister, Fanny Sims, who was an enthusiastic spiritualist.
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