(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 Radionics.

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 person's condition.

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 insect control.


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 Foundation.

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 century charlatans".

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.