(Investigator 190. 2020, January)
A pseudoscientific method of medical diagnosis invented in the early
part of this century by a prominent physician, Dr. Albert Abrams
(1863-1924). Radionics is claimed by its proponents to be a method of
diagnosing disease through the use of specialised instruments. When
Abrams died, he left his considerable fortune to the College of
Electronic Medicine to carry on his medical theories. Subsequent
developments were undertaken in the 1930s by Ruth Drown, a
chiropractor, and T.G. Hieronymus, a radio engineer.
In England, following the death of Abrams in 1924, George De la Warr
and other researchers developed a variety of Radionic instruments, and
in 1960, the Radionics Association was founded.
Dr. Abrams hypothesised that a diseased tissue produced some type of
radiation, and that as it had a molecular structure unlike that of
normal tissue, it could be detected electronically by using a simple
variable resistance box to measure it. He called this new diagnostic
system "The Electronic Reactions of Abrams" later to become known as
Modern radionics is based on the principle that everyone and everything
has its own particular energy emanation and uses sensitive electronic
equipment in conjunction with the sensitivity of the operator, to
detect the presence and intensity of such emanations. Radionics
equipment is also used extensively in agriculture, where it is claimed
to assist in the balancing and revitalising of the soils, disease,
insect and weed control.
Abram's method of diagnosis was to rapidly tap on the spine or abdomen.
The sounds produced by the tapping were supposed to be clues to a
His first invention was a diagnostic machine called a "dynamizer". A
drop of blood obtained from the patient and placed inside the box was
connected to an electrical source and the forehead of a healthy person.
By tapping and listening to the sounds, Abrams claimed to be able to
diagnose the ailment. Other inventions used for the same purpose were
the "oscilloclast", the "pathoclast", the "electrobioscope" the
"biodynamometer" and the "reflexophone", the latter used for diagnosing
over the telephone.
In radionics, to treat a patient, particular emanations are transmitted
by electronic apparatus directly to the subject, sometimes over vast
distances. Other inventions since Abrams' death include devices that
purportedly receive and transmit "subtle energy", a receiver that will
nullify harmful radio and magnetic waves, and a "cosmic pipe" for
Dr. Abrams early medical career was quite orthodox and distinguished.
He wrote several reputable textbooks and held important medical posts.
In 1909 and 1910 however, he postulated a theory of unorthodox
diagnosis and embarked on a career selling and leasing his devices that
earned him a sizable fortune, albeit the ridicule of his scientific
contemporaries. His electronic diagnostic devices, when examined by
scientists and electronic engineers, were found to contain a jungle of
electrical components that made neither rhyme nor reason. The College
of Electronic Medicine which reportedly received a dowry of $3 million
to carry on Abrams' work subsequently became the Electronic Medical
When a doubting member of the American Medical Association submitted
blood specimens to Dr. Abrams for analysis, the reports were ludicrous
in the extreme as were those received by the FDA. Agents investigating
the business in the 1950s sent blood from an amputee for diagnosis and
got back a report of arthritis in the right foot and ankle, which the
man had lost some years before. The blood of a dead man brought back a
diagnosis of colitis, and that of an eleven-week-old rooster resulted
in a report of sinus infection and bad teeth.
When Dr. Abrams died in 1924, the American Medical Association and the
Scientific American both published convincing evidence of charlatanry.
The AMA noted that Abrams "easily ranked as the dean of all twentieth
Inventors continue to come up with similar useless electrical apparatus
reaping a fortune in the process. Dr. Ruth Drown, a chiropractor of Los
Angeles, followed in Abrams' footsteps using radio-type machines to
diagnose ailments from the "vibrations" of blood samples, and for
taking "radio photographs" of body organs. Promotion of radio machines
for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and every other serious
disease is a violation of the American Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
Ruth Drown was found guilty by a jury in the Federal Court in September
1951 and sentenced to prison. The trial had both a tragic and humorous
side. The Government's key case history was that of a woman treated for
breast cancer by the Drown Radio Therapeutic Instrument until her case
became too advanced for successful surgery. The credulity of those sold
on Drown's useless devices was amply illustrated by one witness for the
accused who enthusiastically endorsed Drown's admonition against shower
baths. He explained that water is a conductor which would connect the
patient with the vibrations of the sewer. Consequently, if he took a
shower, his body magnetism and energy would go down the drain. He was
also careful not to pull the plug until after he had climbed out of the
tub, and to clean it with a long-handled brush to avoid contact with
the water going down the drain.
Radionic devices are jealously guarded by their promoters and
purchasers are forbidden to take them apart for examination. There is
no scientific support for any of these gadgets, and there is no doubt
that all belong to the bizarre world of pseudoscience. Caveat emptor!
American Medical Association, 1936. Nostrums and Quackery. Vol. III.
Bailey, David M. 1978. The Rise and Fall of Albert Abrams. Oklahoma St. J. Med. 71. No.1. (Jan.)
Gardner, Martin. 1957. Fads & Fallacies in the Name of Science, Dover Publications Inc. New York.
Edwards, Harry. 1993. Radionics! Good for Everything. the Skeptic, 13(1):19-21. Australian Skeptics Inc.
Penwarn, Ward. 1992. Radionics and how we use it. Organic News. April 1992.
Pollack, Charles V. Dictionary of American Biography. Department of History, Emory University, Atlanta.
From: Edwards, H. 1999 Alternative, Complementary, Holistic and Spiritual Healing, Australian Skeptics Inc.