Joseph Banks Rhine (1895–1980) is usually considered the founder of modern professional parapsychology. Through his work at Duke University in the 1930s, he established a working research program (in the Lakatosian sense) for the controversial discipline, setting down various methodological standards and experimental procedures. Despite Rhine's clear and important influence on modern parapsychology, this article argues that he came to a stage that had already been set. Adopting recent theoretical advances in the study of scientific professionalization, it is argued that Rhine's mentor, the controversial British psychologist William McDougall (1871–1938), has a stronger claim to the parenthood of modern parapsychology than is typically recognized. Following McDougall's attempts to carve out and establish an institutional space for professionalized psychical research in 1920s America, furthermore, takes us to little explored connections between psychical research, Lamarckism, neo-vitalism and policies of eugenics. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.