Howser’s Law

Howser’s Law |PS2 |Belfast |8th – 27th August 2011

Howser’s Law : “The primary personality trait of a given subject is directly determined by their reaction to a smell”.

Dr Douglas Howser
Dr Douglas Howser

This project makes a re-presentation of the scientific research undertaken in the West coast of Ireland by a group of pioneering scientists lead by Dr. Douglas Howser in the mid- 1960s in the field of Olfaction. They discovered a formula which allowed them to determine the predominant personality traits of individuals by their reaction to a certain smell. However their work has never been fully recognized nationally or internationally due to the economic constraints and political agenda of the Irish government at that time. This lack of awareness on the international stage meant that through the passage of time the work of Dr. Howser and his team has been forgotten by history. In addition to this much of the documentation of the groups’ work was lost to a fire in the storage warehouse of the Natural History Museum in the outskirts of Dublin in 1985. In an attempt to redress this balance what is left of their work is being exhibited here along with the chance to take part in the experiment that proves Howser’s Law.

Bio. Dr Douglas Howser (1908 – 1989)Howser was born in Switzerland in 1908. Between 1926 and 1934 he studied first Zoology and Antropology and then Chemistry at the University of Zurich. In 1935 he took a research position at The University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway. Whilst there he became increasingly interested in the European Brown Bear (Ursus arctos arctos) population of both Norway and Sweden, which at this time was in decline. However it was not until after the 2ndWorld War that he was able to dedicate his research in this area and in particular in their olfactory capabilities.In 1949 while presenting his research into the Ursus arctos arctos Howser met Karl Popper* (1902-1994) who had just become Professor of Logic and Scientific Research at the University of London. This became a life long friendship and Popper’s influence can be seen in Howser’s work from this time on and especially in his work on Howser’s Law.

In 1956 Howser was offered a professorship of Chemistry at the College of Science in Galway and when the college opened its newly formed department of Biochemistry in 1963 Howser was appointed Professor of Biochemistry. By this time Howser’s focus had shifted from the olfactory system of Ursus arctos arctos to that of Humans, studying firstly the strength of our olfactory perception and then our reactions to what was perceived. It was this research that lead Howser and his team of researchers to the discovery of what would become Howser’s Law.

* Austrian and British philosopher Karl Popper (1902-1994) is regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th Century. He was also a social and political philosopher of considerable stature.

Popper’s brand of scientific method, ‘falsificationism’ gave rise to a whole new area of debate in the philosophy of science. ‘Falsification’ which concluded that a hypothesis or theory is “scientific” only if it is falsifiable.


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