I just heard that the Candian-born psychiatrist and researcher Ian Stevenson passed away last month at the age of 88.
You may not have heard of him, but he spent a lifetime on a peculiar area of academic research: he was the world's foremost authority on the study of reincarnation. He was interested in children who claim to remember previous lives, near-death experiences, apparitions (death-bed visions), the mind-brain problem, and survival of the human personality after death.
Stevenson was always careful and cautious about his claims. He wrote his first paper on reincarnation in 1960 and went on to conduct additional field research about reincarnation in Africa, Alaska, British Columbia, Burma, South America, Lebanon, Turkey, and many other places. The children studied would typically start recalling their past life story between the ages of two and four, yet seem to have forgotten it by seven or eight. There were frequent mentions of having died a violent death, and apparently clear memories of the mode of death. He gathered testimonies as well as medical records of information on birthmarks, birth defects, and other physical evidence for reincarnation.
Stevenson published over 200 articles and several books, but they were almost exclusively for the academic and scientific community, so they can be heavy going for a non-speciaist. His research database contains over 3,000 cases that provide evidence suggestive of reincarnation, though he himself was always careful to refer to them as "cases suggestive of reincarnation" or "cases of the reincarnation type."
I first heard about his work as a young student in the early 1970s, and I subsequently read most of his books and papers. They make fascinating reading and it is difficult not to be persuaded that either these are genuine cases of reincarnation, or else there is some unknown non-physical method by which young children can pick up information about people and events about which they should know nothing.
Stevenson's work continues with a new generation of researchers. It is is important to think about the incredible implications if even one of these cases is genuine.
And it bears repeating that there is not one case, but over 3,000, all meticulously documented.
One of his papers is available for free download, and if you are interested in the topic of survival, I also recommend the Survival Research Network and the International Association for Near-Death Studies.