Experimentation in the (pseudo)science
of radionics was begun by Dr. Albert Abrams
(1869-1924), an American neurologist. While studying at Heidelberg
, he was taught the "radiational" theory of disease by a professor named De Sauer. Radiation
in this context refers to the radiation of so-called "bio-energy
"; a supposed energy form that radionics enthusiasts equate with chi
, etc. The radiational theory supposes that disease causes a detectable change in the body's natural radiation which can then be used diagnostically.
Similar theories had been held by Franz Mesmer who in the 18th century experimented with something he called "animal magnetism," an energy which he attempted to collect and transfer from one person to another in the hopes of healing them.
As a professor of Pathology and Director of Clinical Medicine at Stanford University, Abrams discovered that by percussing (striking with his fingers) subjects' abdomens, he could find specific "hollow"-sounding locations that would correspond to different illnesses. He went on to experiment with taking diseased tissue samples, placing them near experimental subjects, and testing their percussiveness, with the result that he would hear the same percussions as he would when testing the diseased subject directly. He mapped these different abdominal "disease locations" and named his technique "spondylotherapy."
He went on to characterise different diseases by the electromagnetic resistance between the abdomen and a sample of diseased tissue. He categorised 999 different resistances and named these numbers the "Electronic Reactions of Abrams" or "ERA numbers." Corresponding charts could then be used diagnostically, for instance different locations on the skin could be tested, and when a particular spot yielded a certain ERA number, that area could be diagnosed as cancerous.
Later spondylotherapy practitioners replaced the human abdomen with what is known as a "sticking plate"--a rubber disc that the tester would rub his or her fingers around while increasing the resistance in the circuit between the sticking plate and the subject. At a certain resistance, the fingers would suddenly "stick" and that ERA number could then be recorded.
After Abrams' death in 1924, his work was continued by the Hollywood chiropractor Ruth Drown who developed an instrument known as the Homo Vibro Ray (no, really!) or HMV. This was a more sophisticated version of the sticking plate-resistor set-up. It was her belief that the device was detecting human emission of radio waves, and for this reason, she coined the term "radionics" to describe this therapy. She enjoyed relative commercial success, with a chain of clinics across the United States using radionics, chiropractic, and other "natural medicines".
Drown was eventually prevented from doing business by the Food and Drug Administration in 1963, her laboratory equipment confiscated or destroyed much the same as Wilhelm Reich's had been in the 1950s.
The "science" of radionics went on to evolve in countless different directions, in many cases overlapping with other forms of "action at a distance" such as sympathetic magic. For instance, modern-day radionics practitioners use techniques like exposing a crop sample to a pesticidal radiation in order to rid a field of pests, etc.
The above is by no means a complete history of radionics. I plan to append information here about the various forms of radionics practice since the 1960s. Any information on this or on connections to other disciplines (dowsing, pendulums, etc.) would be appreciated.