Geo Bell 26/12/2015
The term “lucid dream” was first coined by Dutch psychiatrist and writer Frederick van Eeden in 1913. At the time, van Eeden was describing the 'clear state of mind' which he experienced during a state of consciousness which is now widely known as lucid dreaming. 
The fascinating wonder of consciousness in dreams has been evident in human culture for thousands of years. Despite this, and the fact that most people have experienced lucid dreams, the authenticity of this paradoxical phenomena was met with fierce doubt by the scientific community for many years.  This was until 1981, when Stephen LaBerge's PhD research on lucid dreaming was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Perceptual and Motor Skills, and the interest of lucid dreaming started to spread like wild-fire. 
How did LaBerge prove the existence of lucid dreaming?
During REM sleep, the voluntary muscles are effectively paralysed to avoid the sleeper acting out his or her dreams – a phenomena known as muscle atonia. The eye musculature however is highly active during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. LaBerge realised that a trained oneironaut could exploit this freedom of eye movement to signal to the 'outside' waking world.
LaBerge instructed a group of subjects the 'Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams' (MILD) technique, which LaBerge had formulated as part of his PhD research as a cognitive technique of inducing lucid dreams. The subjects were monitored in a sleep laboratory and given the instruction to 'signal' the onset of a lucid dream using specific eye movements. LaBerge and colleagues successfully recorded empirical evidence that the subjects were consciously signalling in their dream, whilst unambiguously confined to REM sleep. 
Who got there first?
In actual fact, LaBerge was not the first to provide scientific evidence of lucid dreaming. The initial proof was obtained in 1975 by PhD student Keith Hearne at Liverpool University, England. In the sleep laboratory, Hearne monitored the eye movements of volunteer Alan Worsley, and, for the first time in history, obtained empirical scientific evidence that consciousness within the boundary of REM sleep was possible. 
Hearne's work was not widely distributed, and was dismissed by the US based institutions with which he shared his findings. Hearne continued to undertake research on the subject of dreaming, and has since authored several books and publications.
It's unsurprising therefore, that when LaBerge was undertaking his PhD research at Stanford University, he believed it to be the first piece of evidence of lucid dreaming. In his 1994 bestseller 'Exploring The World Of Lucid Dreaming', LaBerge acknowledged the pioneering work by Hearne and Worsley. 
The ground-breaking work by both Hearne and LaBerge certainly paved the way, for what is now an exciting field of scientific research. 
1. Eeden, F. van,. (1913). "A study of Dreams". Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research
2. LaBerge, S. (2014) 'Lucid Dreaming: Paradoxes of Dreaming Consciousness', in Cardeña, E., Lynn, S. and Krippner, S. (2014). Varieties of anomalous experience. ISBN: 978-1-4338-1529-4
3. Hurd, R. and Bulkeley, K. (2014) Lucid dreaming. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Praeger.
4. LaBerge, S. and Rheingold, H. (1997) Exploring the world of lucid dreaming. New York: Ballantine Books.
5. Hearne, K. (1978) 'Lucid dreams: an electro-physiological and psychological study.' PhD thesis. University of Liverpool, England