James Randi is a Canadian-American stage magician, scientific skeptic, secular humanist, lecturer, and amateur astronomer/archaeologist. Randi is also the founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) and the founding fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.
Mr. Randi was born Randall James Hamilton Zwinge on August 7, 1928 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Randi was the oldest of three children who acquired his interest in magic at age 13 following a horrible bike accident. The accident left Randi's body broken and immobile within a body cast for over 13 months. Doctors believed Randi would never walk again but at age 17, Randi defied the prognosis, dropped out of high school and began performing in a carnival roadshow as conjurer known as "The Amazing Randi." In the years following his teens, Randi worked as a psychic and wrote an astrological column under the psyodonym "Zo-Ran" for Canada's Midnight tabloid. Randi worked in various Philippine nightclubs during his 30s where he refined his performances, often based upon others' experiences, including witnessing an evangelist convincing believers of "divine powers."
In 1966 through 1967, Randi hosted the New York City based WOR-Radio owned, Randi Show. In the years that followed, Mr. Randi performed for many television specials worldwide and has starred in many television documentaries, interview shows, and various other productions. Randi also toured as a performer and lecturer throughout the Far East, Europe, Australia, North America, and South America, including a special stop at the White House in 1974.
In more recent years, Randi has been a frequent guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and also has appeared on Penn and Teller's t.v. show Bullshit!
Randi was a founding fellow for Paul Kurtz's the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) in 1976. The Committee was a U.S. based non profit organization focused upon "the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view and disseminate factual information about the results of such inquiries to the scientific community and the public." The Committee is focused upon serving the public and media with factual based information. The Amherst, New York based group expanded upon ideas of scientific skepticism and included many authors, scientists, Nobel laureates, philosophers, educators, and even celebrities. The group later shortened the name to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) in 2006.
At age 60, Randi retired from magic to pursue "woo-woo" a term he assigned to paranormal, occult, and supernatural pseudosciences. Often dubbed a debunker, Randi prefers the term "investigator." During his later years, Randi has written extensively on topics like the history of magic, skepticism, and the paranormal, as well as founded the James Randi Educational Foundation. The JREF sponsors the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge as well as offers scholarships, seminars, and workshops on parapsychological research. The Challenge allows applicants to compete to provide evidence of a paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event under prearranged test conditions. The JREF holds an annual conference every January dubbed The Amaz!ing Meeting.
Randi's other retirement projects include writing for the Skeptic's Society journal entitled the Skeptical Inquirer which Randi's column "Twas Brillig" appears. The journal reaches over 40,000 subscribers. Randi also works as editor of SWIFT, the online JREF newsletter available at www.randi.org.