Biologist Rupert Sheldrake stabbed at lecture

Author Rupert Sheldrake, whose ideas about biology and consciousness sometimes spark controversy, was stabbed after giving a lecture in Santa Fe, NM, last week. He is currently recovering. Here is a local news article, and following is Mr. Sheldrake's own account of the events (continues after the jump)...
A week ago, on the afternoon of Wednesday April 2, I was giving a talk to several hundred people at the International Science and Consciousness Conference in the ballroom of the La Fonda Hotel, in the centre of Santa Fe, New Mexico. After the talk ended at 3pm, I stepped down from the podium and was talking to people in a small group that had gathered around me.

Suddenly I felt a violent blow on my left thigh, as if I had been punched. It was totally unexpected, and I did not see my assailant run towards me. He was rapidly pulled away. I looked down at my leg, and to my astonishment saw the handle of a dagger sticking out of my trousers. Without thinking, I pulled it out: the blade of the bloodstained weapon was about five inches long and an inch wide. I felt my trouser leg was wet with blood, and I pulled my trousers down.

Every time my heart beat, a fountain of blood spurted from the wound in my thigh about four inches into the air. I was fortunate that several people from the audience with medical experience rapidly came to my assistance, including a nurse, doctor and paramedic. I lay down on the stage while they fastened a belt around my thigh as a tourniquet and pressed on my leg to reduce the flow of blood.

Quite soon, a team of paramedics arrived, bandaged my wound, inserted an intravenous drip and lifted me onto a stretcher (called a gurney in America). When they carried me out into the street, blue lights were flashing on police cars, and press photographers and TV cameramen soon had me in their focus. I was driven in the ambulance to St Vincent Regional Medical Center, and taken to the emergency room, where the staff examined my wound. A few minutes later my old friend Larry Dossey walked in, having been told of the attack. I was delighted to see him. He is not only a friend but a doctor, and has seen many wounds from his time as a battalion surgeon in Vietnam. Some policemen also arrived, and questioned me about the attack, asked me to write a statement and photographed my leg and bloodstained clothes.

The wound had stopped bleeding, but my thigh had swollen enormously. The trauma surgeon, Dr Caesar Ursic, at first considered the possibility of leaving the wound to heal without surgical intervention, but it continued to swell, and he decided that it would be better to open up my leg to clean out the wound and stop the internal bleeding. He offered me a choice, and I asked Larry's advice. He was unhesitant - go for the operation. So I did. The anaesthetist was very friendly, and after taking my medical details and discussing the procedure, she told me about her dogs that know when she is coming home as I was wheeled into the operating theatre.

My attacker was Japanese, and had arrived from Japan only a few days beforehand. He had spoken to me the day before my lecture, telling me he was hearing voices. He was obviously in distress. I later learned that he had told several other people about the voices, and some had tried to help him.

But no one anticipated that he would turn violent, and neither I, nor anyone else I know of, had any premonition of it. Although the report in USA Today said that he was "disturbed" by my lecture, which was on the extended mind, this was misleading; he was disturbed anyway. In any case, his English was probably too poor to understand much of what I said. The fact that I was speaking in the final session of the conference may have had more to do with it - if he was going to do something spectacular, this was his last chance.

After stabbing me, he was rapidly brought to the floor by an Australian rugby player, and was held down by several men until the police led him away in handcuffs. While on the ground, he apparently said that the voices had told him to attack me. He is now in Santa Fe jail awaiting trial. I feel no anger towards him, but am pleased that he is locked away and unable to harm anyone else.

When I regained consciousness I was lying on my back in a hospital bed with tubes everwhere, but not in pain. A blood-filled drainage tube came out of a hole in my leg, draining the wound. I had an intravenous line through which I could administer morphine by pressing a button, but I never needed any medication. Dr Ursic told me that he had removed a blood clot the size of a tennis ball, sealed off several small arteries that were bleeding into my muscles, and cleaned out the wound. He said that he was surprised by the large amount of tissue damage, which reminded him of what he had read about hari-kiri wounds, caused by twisting the blade. At the time, he did not know that my assailant was Japanese. The dagger had caused a wound about five inches deep and an inch wide, severing the tissue in my quadriceps muscle but fortunately missing the femoral artery by about half an inch. He told me it would probably be few days before I could begin to walk again, using a walking frame.

The nursing staff were very helpful, and I had a stream of visitors, including some of the conference staff, several conference participants, some former students of mine and friends who live in Santa Fe. I also had many comforting phone calls, first and foremost from my wife Jill, in London. My room began to fill up with beautiful bunches of flowers, including organic tulips, and baskets of fruit and other food. I was carried along by a great surge of love and well-wishing, with messages pouring in from around the world conveyed to me via Jill and via Larry and Barbara Dossey. I learned that at the conference itself, immediately after the stabbing, dozens of people formed a circle to pray for me. Other chanted in a nearby church. My family and many friends around the world were praying for me. Several of my visitors gave me various forms of healing, including Reiki, and one of the nursing staff, who was also a practitioner of Healing Touch, visited me at nights just before I went to sleep, leaving me feeling as if I were floating like a feather.

On Friday Dr Ursic removed all my tubes, and with the help of the physical training staff I ventured out of bed for the first time, moving a few yards in a walker. On Saturday, for the first time, I began to put my weight on my left leg and hobbled about a 100 yards with the frame. That evening I was due to be speaking at an event in the Lensic Theatre in Santa Fe, part of an election year "Festival of Optimistic Voices", organized by my old friend Nina Wise. I felt strong enough to do it, and Dr Ursic arranged for me to be able to leave the hospital for a few hours. I was taken to the theatre by Larry and Barbara Dossey. I was the first speaker after the interval, and after being introduced had to walk to the middle of the stage with my walker, in front of several hundred people. The story of my stabbing had been on the front page of the local newspaper, the New Mexican, and I was given a very warm reception. I spoke on Science and Hope. (The video of my talk should be online soon with a link from my web site,

I had expected to be using the walker for about a week, but on Sunday morning Dr Ursic thought I might be able to graduate to a four-legged walking stick (known in America as a quad cane). He was right. I was discharged from the hospital soon afterwards, and came to stay with Larry and Barbara Dossey in their beautiful house, amidst pine and juniper trees in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. The next day, as I was walking around the house, I realized that I had forgotten my cane and was walking without it. My left leg still feels clumsy, stiff and weak, and my thigh is swollen, but my healing has been exceptionally fast and I have experienced no pain throughout the whole process. I have also felt no fear, and have indeed felt calm and happy, even blissful at times. I attribute all this to my good fortune in having such a skillful surgeon in Caesar Ursic, who in all my encounters with him was completely present and trust-inspiring, excellent care at St Vincent's, the love and support of my family and friends, the prayers of so many people, and the healings I have received. I am also very fortunate to be able to recover at the home of Larry and Barbara Dossey, which is like a sanctuary. They are looking after me wonderfully well, and it is great fun being with them. As I said on Saturday night at the Lensic Theatre, if you have to get stabbed, Santa Fe is the best place for it to happen.

I am due to fly to Tucson tomorrow to attend the Toward a Science of Consciousness Conference at the University of Arizona, where I am scheduled to give a keynote address on Saturday morning, and I plan to fly home to London on Monday. As usual I am not traveling with a computer, and will only start to answer emails when I am home again. There are more than 2,000 in my inbox, so if you have written to me, I apologize for the delay in replying, and it may be a while before I can respond.

I am very grateful to all those people who have helped me here in Santa Fe, and to all those at home and around the world who have been praying for me and sending me their love and support. It has made all the difference.

(thank you, John Brockman) Previous coverage on BB: Link.


  1. We read about this like five days ago. I’m sorry he was stabbed and I’m glad he’s getting better. But why post the story again?

  2. Guys this is new because it is the victim’s own account in his own words. Xeni acknowledged the earlier post this is an update.

  3. Yeah, but why not say something like “follow up” in the title of the article? Just nitpicking, but it’s old news.

  4. I’m not defending stabbing anyone, but calling Sheldrake a biologist (or any kind of scientist) is a bit of a stretch. His work on mystic “morphic fields” and other pseudoscience doesn’t “spark controversy” any more than Uri Geller’s spoon bending does. Yes, Sheldrake has a doctorate in biochemistry, but degrees do not a scientist make; publishing repeatable research in peer reviewed journals does.

    1. He’s a real scientisits. Scientisits explore then unknown and thats exactly what hes doing he studying and gathering evidence and facts about the subjust of telepathy and he explains it in complete scienitifical terms. He has a different idea. And I believe it

  5. Ditto on #8.

    Compelling as the harrowing account is, Sheldrake is not a scientist. He’s more of an alternate scientist–which, of course is an oxymoron.

  6. #8

    My feelings exactly. The world desperately needs more scientists (particularly in his chosen field) so this is a tragic waste of an education.

  7. Funny how non traditional pratictioners always turn to real medicine in an emergency. Shouldn’t he have allowed his morphic fields to spontateously re-generate his leg? Oh, yeah, he would have died otherwise, I forgot.

  8. The nazi youth publicly assaulted and killed leaders of the logical positivism movement in Germany before World War II. Luckily, many moved before the real shit came down. Fortunately for the U.S., many of the positivists relocated to Universities in the Midwest and can be thanked for the few liberal streaks in the cornbelt.

  9. Dear Rupert,

    I am sorry to hear of this vicious attack on your personage. I have read your materials, which has caused me to think. Thank you for that. However, may I make a simple suggestion to whit I would have thought a biologist might of have a working knowledge thereof: If you have a blade of several inches stuck into your body the least successful thing to do, in terms of overall survival, is to yank the intruding slab of metal out without nearby immediate medical personal and services. Usually speaking such intrusions into the biological bosy, while inflicting damage, will also serve as a damn against certain things biologists usually call blood vessels. Yanking such things out with little thought usually result in volumes of blood spurting out. Perhaps you missed this in your biology training. Best & fast recovery! And Rupert, don’t yank anything else out, ok?

  10. I think you’re missing the main point here. His immediate reaction to trauma was to pull his pants down. Admirable. I believe that will now be my default reaction to anything that happens to me that is surprising, painful, or disturbing.

  11. Tourniquets are not the best way of dealing with a stab wound like this. I’ve become a bit evangelical about spreading the word of how to treat someone who’s been stabbed and hopefully save their life.
    My dad wrote about a first aid technique for knife victims for the UK Guardian after a spate of stabbings here in Britain. It could be vital reading for you. Read it here:,,1781770,00.html

  12. good article. Very good.

    “If a large artery is severed by a stabbing in the groin or upper thigh, the torrent of blood released under pressure will be obvious externally. It is simple to staunch the haemorrhage by applying very firm pressure just above the injury: the victim must first be pulled out flat; then, kneeling on the same side as the injury, the first-aider uses a clenched fist to apply very firm pressure just above the wound and on a line between it and the belly button.

    A second fist, applied to the abdomen just below the belly button, pushing the belly wall hard against the spine, can also be used if the bleeding seems unabated. This action compresses the main artery to the lower body and both legs. A tourniquet or bandage cannot achieve sufficient direct pressure to control bleeding from the large artery in the groin.

    Should the stab wound be higher in the abdomen, and a vital organ or large artery lacerated, there may be little external bleeding but the life-threatening haemorrhage will continue as the abdo-minal cavity fills with blood. The only thing a first-aider can do is apply the fist pressure as high as possible, just below the breast bone, and trust some control can be achieved until expert help arrives.

    If more people realise they have the power to save lives, then these tragedies could be dramatically reduced.

    The golden rule is to stop the flow with your immediate effort, and hang on, no matter how tired you feel or how much discomfort you seem to be causing. Your reassurances to the victim that he or she will not die will be based on a very real likelihood that this will be true.”

  13. While the article reveals that Sheldrake seems to be a well-adjusted human being, many of his ideas are still mostly bunkum.

  14. I’m glad Sheldrake is OK and it sounds like he’s going to make a full recovery, it must be terrible for anyone to get stabbed at random like that.

    I’m not altogether surprised there was a schizophrenic in the audience at fringe “science” conference, though. I saw an interview with James Randy, who said part of the reason he’s stopping his $10 million challenge for demonstrating E.S.P / psychic phenomena was because many of the applicants were just straight-forward mentally ill, and there’s no sport in “outing” them.

    There’s a fine line between people who can’t or choose not to intuit the difference between fantasy and reality in the context of a particular field and those who are generally two quarks short of a baryon.

  15. #8

    To be fair, not only has he a double first and a PhD from Cambridge, he was also a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge and a Research Fellow of the Royal Society. Those are pretty impressive mainstream credentials.

    Is his later work pseudoscience? Most probably, but he’s a cut above Uri Geller.

  16. Oh. I was just outside the room when this happened, and was one of the first people on the scene afterward. I was offered the knife that stabbed Dr. Sheldrake by one of the conference attendees, but was smart enough not to touch it.

    I didn’t realize that it had made BoingBoing. I must have missed that. I was sort of busy that afternoon.

  17. There was so much tissue damage because Sheldrake pulled the thing out himself. If you are ever stabbed or pierced by something DO NOT PULL IT OUT. That’s what doctors are for.

    And doesn’t anyone teach their younglings how to shank a guy anymore? Who stabs for their thigh first?

  18. Dear Spherical:

    If there are enough witnesses to preclude any later accusations against yourself, ALWAYS get control of the weapon.

    One of the most basic doctrines of first response is SECURE THE AREA.

    Besides, if you have the chance to quietly pocket it, you can always sell it on eBay.

  19. Dear Takuan
    You have a fan. I just thought I’d let you know.

    Adoringly admiring from afar…~E

  20. very, very afar I hope. (you look like a nice kid, here’s twenny bucks, get a meal and a bus ticket and forget ya ever saw this joint or ya ever met me.)

  21. It seems a little strange to mention that his ideas often spark controversy when it has, apparently, no relationship to why he was stabbed. Mentioning it suggests that it should be relevant, but as Sheldrake himself said, the guy was clearly disturbed in unrelated ways.

  22. hey, public figures are public. If your average, easy-going nutjob is looking for a source of the voices in his head to stab to shut them up, why not the guy on the stage? I mean,why do ya suppose I’M here? (you seem to be talking really loud….c’mere a second would ya?….)

  23. Rupert Sheldrake is one of my favorite thinkers in the world. His ideas have always given me feelings of joy and hope and I appreciate his dry wit. It is now July 2010 and I just found out that he had been stabbed in 2008. How grateful I am to learn that he is all right. HIs account of his recovery is so gracious and mindful that it gives me pleasure to read it. He had a better time being stabbed than many people have on their honeymoon.

    If I am ever able to meet him or even see him in person I will consider myself fortunate in deed.

    Anita Lovitt

  24. Sheldrake is being met with the same skepticism that dogmatics wield on those who challenge the dogma. The Catholic Church refused to look through the telescope when Galileo invited them to. Now mainstream science is doing the same. Interesting that his detractors don’t challenge his data, they simply attack HIM. A cardinal sign that it’s a religion they are trying to defend.

  25. Hi guys. Now this is old news, but my post concerns a problem of communication I keep observing on internet discussions. And that is ANONYMITY. I dislike anonymity in general. But when it is sported by people who at best have smug remarks to offer, and at worst are simply offensive, I am seriously provoked. It’s simply PATHETIC slandering a publicly outspoken person while protected by the the veil of anonymity. There is absolutely nothing whatsoever admirable about it. That’s all I have to say. Whether or not Sheldrake is a ‘real’ scientist or a ‘real’ nutcase is beyond the scope of my criticism.

    Keep it real.

    Brage Lailasson Grastvedt Bjørndahl, Oslo, Norway.

  26. I celebrate Dr. Sheldrake is ok now.
    Once more,reading some of the comments here I realize that these so called “materialist scientists” sound much like religious fundamentalists,in the sense that they “believe” that certain things like ESP are impossible,therefore not true.I do not think anything is imposible in principle,and also think that especially scientists should abstain from using that word,as I consider it unscientific and dogmatic.
    There is a dense literature concerning ESP,involving some very bright scientists,and it is really ignorant for educated people to just dismiss or ignore this data.
    Thanks for the interesting comments


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