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Radionic instruments

Radionics is an alternative medicine that claims disease can be diagnosed and treated with a kind of energy similar to radio waves.[1] The concept behind radionics originated in the early 1900s with Albert Abrams (1864–1924), who became a millionaire by leasing radionic machines which he designed himself.[1] Radionics contradicts some principles of physics and biology and, as such, is widely considered pseudoscientific.[2] The United States Food and Drug Administration does not recognize any legitimate medical uses for radionic devices.[1][2][3]


Electro-metabograph machine

According to radionics practitioners, a healthy person will have certain energy frequencies moving through their body that define health, while an unhealthy person will exhibit other, different energy frequencies that define disorders. Radionic devices purport to diagnose and heal by applying appropriate frequencies to balance the discordant frequencies of sickness. Radionics uses "frequency" not in its standard meaning but to describe an imputed energy type, which does not correspond to any property of energy in the scientific sense.[4]

In one form of radionics popularised by Abrams, some blood on a bit of filter paper is attached to a device Abrams called a dynamizer, which is attached by wires to a string of other devices and then to the forehead of a healthy volunteer, facing west in a dim light. By tapping on his abdomen and searching for areas of "dullness", disease in the donor of the blood is diagnosed by proxy. Handwriting analysis is also used to diagnose disease under this scheme.[3]

Having done this, the practitioner may use a special device known as an oscilloclast or any of a range of other devices to broadcast vibrations at the patient in order to attempt to heal them.[3]

Albert Abrams claimed to detect such frequencies and/or cure people by matching their frequencies, and claimed them sensitive enough that he could tell someone's religion by looking at a drop of blood.[3] He developed thirteen devices and became a millionaire leasing his devices,[3][5] and the American Medical Association described him as the "dean of gadget quacks."[5] His devices were definitively proven useless by an independent investigation commissioned by Scientific American in 1924.[6]

Other notable quack devices in radionics have included the Ionaco and the Hieronymus machine.[7][8]

Modern practitioners now conceptualize these devices merely as a focusing aid to the practitioner's proclaimed dowsing abilities, and claim that there is no longer any need for the device to have any demonstrable function. Indeed, Abrams' black boxes had no purpose of their own, being merely obfuscated collections of wires and electronic parts.[6]

Radionics plays an important part in the plot of the novel A Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel Spark.


Radiesthesia is the claimed paranormal or parapsychological ability to detect "radiation" within the human body. According to the theory, all human bodies give off unique or characteristic "radiations" as do all other physical bodies or objects. Such radiations are often termed an "aura".

A practitioner of radiesthesia claims to detect the interplay of these radiations. Thus radiesthesia is cited as the explanation of such phenomena as dowsing by rods and pendulums in order to locate buried substances, diagnose illnesses, and the like. Radiesthesia has been described as a mixture of occultism and pseudoscience by critics.[9]

Scientific assessment[edit]

The claims for radionic devices contradict the accepted principles of biology and physics. No scientifically verifiable mechanisms of function for these devices has been posited, and they are often described as "magical" in operation. No plausible biophysical basis for the "putative energy fields" has been proposed, and neither the fields themselves nor their purported therapeutic effects have been convincingly demonstrated.[10]

No radionic device has been found efficacious in the diagnosis or treatment of any disease, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not recognize any legitimate medical uses of any such device.[1] According to David Helwig in The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, "most physicians dismiss radionics as quackery."[2]

Internally, a radionic device is very simple, and may not even form a functional electrical circuit.[6] The wiring in the analysis device is simply used as a mystical conduit.[11] A radionic device does not use or need electric power, though a power cord may be provided, ostensibly to determine a "base rate" on which the device operates to attempt to heal a subject.[12] Typically, little attempt is made to define or describe what, if anything, is flowing along the wires and being measured. Energy in the physical sense, i.e., energy that can be sensed and measured, is viewed as subordinate to intent and "creative action".[11]

Notable practitioners[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Electromagnetic Therapy". American Cancer Society. Retrieved 2008-02-06. 
  2. ^ a b c Helwig, David (December 2004). "Radionics". In Longe, Jacqueline L. The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. Gale Cengage. ISBN 978-0-7876-7424-3. Retrieved 2008-02-07. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Fishbein, Morris, The New Medical Follies (1927) Boni and Liverlight, New York Pages 39-41
  4. ^ Smith, Crosbie (1998). The Science of Energy - a Cultural History of Energy Physics in Victorian Britain. The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-76420-6. 
  5. ^ a b Article on Royal Rife at Quackwatch
  6. ^ a b c Pilkington, Mark (2004-04-15). "A vibe for radionics". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-02-07.  "Scientific American concluded: 'At best, [ERA] is all an illusion. At worst, it is a colossal fraud.'"
  7. ^ Holbrook, Stewart. (1959). Gaylord Wilshire's I-ON-A-CO. In The Golden Age of Quackery. Collier Books. pp. 135-144
  8. ^ Gardner, Martin. (2012 edition, originally published in 1957). Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science. Dover Publications. pp. 347-348. ISBN 0-486-20394-8
  9. ^ Zusne, Leonard; Jones, Warren H. (2014). Anomalistic Psychology: A Study of Magical Thinking. Psychology Press. pp. 109-110. ISBN 978-0-805-80508-6
  10. ^ "Energy Medicine: an overview". National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Retrieved 2008-02-09.  "In the aggregate, these approaches are among the most controversial of CAM practices because neither the external energy fields nor their therapeutic effects have been demonstrated convincingly by any biophysical means."
  11. ^ a b Franks, Nick (November 2000). "Reflections on the Ether and some notes on the Convergence between Homeopathy and Radionics" (PDF). Radionic Journal. 46 (2): 4–21. Retrieved 2008-02-09. 
  12. ^ Scofield, Tony. "The Radionic Principle: Mind over Matter" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-02-09. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]