Dr MacDougall Soul – 21 Grams

Dr MacDougall Soul - 21 Grams

In this article we will be looking at the Dr MacDougall soul and the link it has to the popular Hollywood movie 21 grams.

Gotta Have Soul

What would you say if I told you it may be possible to weigh the human soul? It would certainly put the cat among the pigeons wouldn’t it?

Well that’s exactly what Duncan MacDougall of Haverhill, Massachusetts attempted to pull off in 1907.

Duncan MacDougall

He actually went one further than this – he claimed that he had managed to weigh the human soul successfully and he was in possession of the results!

The Controversy 

The real controversy kicked off in April 1907 with the help of the New York Times. They decided to publish an article on the Dr MacDougall soul and underline the fact that he had been successful with the experiment.

Unfortunately the New York Times made a complete cock up of his precise results leading him to re-write them and publish them himself.

The report was entitled “Hypothesis concerning soul substance together with experimental evidence of the existence of such substance” and he decided to publish it to two highly respectable journals – American Medicine and Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research.

He wasn’t alone in the conclusions he came to as he used a sounding board in the form of Dr. Richard Hodgson – another man highly respected in his field ( physics ).

The Soul

He managed to create a mix of typical science with the more spiritual side of things. He claimed that it was possible to weigh the soul due to the fact it occupied a part of the human body.

He reported that the soul had to physically occupy this space due to the fact it contained a human’s personality.

The Soul

He also claimed that the substance that contained the soul could not logically be part of our universe – it had no individual differences.

With this knowledge in hand he set about creating a process of reasonably disturbing experiments to test his theory…

The Experiments of The Macabre

The first thing Macdougall did was have a special bed constructed that was able to weigh tiny amounts of weight change.

He then somehow managed to employ six people who were dying of different causes to monitor on the bed (how he managed to do this is anyone’s guess – money to the families maybe?).

Soul Hovering Above Body

The subjects were given special treatment though – it’s not as if he was bad to them in any way!

Whatever weight was lost in whatever manner (natural or otherwise) was recorded by MacDougall.

When the patients died their waste (feces and urine) were left on the special bed to make sure there was no deviation in the results.

He had carefully chosen his subjects with diseases that did not cause the patients to squirm around that much – he didn’t want the weight effected by sudden movements of pain.

Eliminating The Causes

The first experiment on the Dr MacDougall soul was with a man dying of tuberculosis. This gave the doctor the results of a loss of three-fourths of an ounce from the man’s overall weight.

Dr MacDougall Soul Experiments

This was a promising start to proceedings but MacDougall and his partner in crime, Dr. Sproull, had to eliminate any discrepancies in the results.

They both took turns to lie on the bed and breathe in and out really heavily to see if lung capacity would effect their overall weight.

It didn’t and the experiment seemed to be a success.

In all Dr MacDougall ran his experiments on four human subjects successfully with varying results on each. He was amazed at the overall conclusions his results were showing him so he decided to take the experiment one step further.


By this point he felt he was positive that the human soul did in fact weigh something – but what about other mammals?

the human soul

He decided to run another twelve experiments but this time using dogs instead of dying humans. I don’t really know what point animal rights were at in those days but one hopes he was not to cruel to them!

His results pointed to the fact that dogs did not lose any sort of weight when they passed away – could this mean that dogs and other animals have no soul?

He did point out in his results that all the human subjects died of natural causes whilst the dogs were drugged to a point which caused death – could this have effected results?

21 Grams

Dr. MacDougall concluded that a human soul weighed 21 grams when it passed over. Most of you out there will remember the impressive 2003 movie of the same title.

In one point of this movie the narration does mention the Dr Macdougall soul weighing 21 grams. If you haven’t watched the movie I recommend you do – it’s an astonishing film!

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