Abrams, Boyd, and the emanometer

Adapted from list messages by Julian Winston.

Abrams' percussions

In the early 1920's a physician at Stanford University, Albert Abrams, noted a unique quality to the sound he got when the abdomen of a patient was percussed. After much experimentation he found that a healthy person would percuss with the same "dullness" when a sample of diseased tissue was held against them. Abrams concluded that there was some kind of "radiation" from the tissue to which the healthy body reacted.

He believed that if the phenomenon were electronic in nature (as he thought it was) it should be possible to measure the frequency of the disease by placing a potentiometer between the pathological sample and the percussed patient and observing at which frequency the note of percussion changed. Abrams also experimented with determining the vibratory rate of drugs. When he attempted to show his students the worthlessness of potentized remedies, he found, to his surprise, that the 3X potency showed greater strength than a tincture, and the higher the potency (he tried a 6X and a 30) the stronger the reaction. As it was reported in the January 1923 Jottings:

"Dr. Abrams published the results of his experiments and acknowledged his belief in the homeopathic law of cure, then and not until then the wrath of the dominant school enveloped him. He has been denounced as a charlatan and fakir."

The Scientific American test

The Abrams device was tested by Scientific American in a test very reminiscent of the test that Nature Magazine conducted in the Benveniste Laboratory in France almost 60 years later.

A report to the International Hahnemannian Association (IHA) in 1925, said that the investigation of Scientific American was undertaken "in a journalistic rather than scientific style," and the publication of the article "killed off all chances of obtaining cooperation of those who could have shown it enough presumptive evidence to convince it that Abrams's claims had at least some basis in fact." According to the report, none but the negative evidence was reported, the efforts were directed toward disproving; there were false manipulations; and similar work overseas was ignored. The Scientific American article concluded:

"...the claims advanced on behalf of the electronic reaction of Abrams and of electronic practice in general are not substantiated, and it is our belief that they have no basis in fact. It is our opinion that the so-called electronic treatments are without value."

Abrams resigned from the AMA and the California Medical Society after the AMA printed an attack on him in its Journal.

Boyd's emanometer

In 1922, the homeopath, Dr. William E. Boyd of Glasgow followed Abrams' lead and constructed a machine of his own which he called the Emanometer. Boyd was not satisfied with the work of Abrams so he decided to do his own research in the field. 

As with the Abrams device, the emanometer used the abdominal reflexes of the individual he was examining. Dr. Boyd tried to see if he could determine the vibrational frequency of a remedy after he found out that humans could act like antennas on a radio. There was a lot of work done at this time due to the recent splitting of the atom and Boyd wondered if the atom released wave energy when it split. Boyd used this idea to build a machine to try and sort remedies into related groups. 

He published papers in the early homoeopathic journals claiming that he could detect pathology, the administration of correct remedies, and even group remedies and pathologies. He claimed to be able to detect when a spoiled case cleared under the correct simillimum on his machine. The work is fascinating but interrupted in the journals by WW II and never really followed up.

In theory, you would be able to test a human subject, get a reading, and then find the vibratory frequency that would somehow stabilize the reading and then give the remedy of that frequency.

Scientific verification

Dr. Boyd did countless studies and was very pragmatic and scientific in his approach. His claims were investigated by a committee of orthodox medical men and scientists called the Horder Committee and the findings were submitted to the British parliament. Boyd arranged a series of double blind tests capable of being evaluated on a statistical basis. In this manner the accidental success ratios could be compared with actual successes. The most rigorous of these trials was repeated at an interval of a few months produced a 33,000,000 to 1 ratio in favor of the reality of the phenomena. The controls were carefully kept by the investigating committee. 

The scientists concluded that they did not understand the mechanism involved in the emanometer but noted that the results were consistent and dramatically self-evident. The group then turned their findings over to a parliamentary committee. 

Although little came of it, this "official recognition" is one of the reasons that further work in medical dowsing has not been suppressed in Britain as it has been in the USA. The IHA committee was headed by Guy Beckley Stearns, MD, and published a paper of its findings in 1925. Dr. Stearns was a well known homeopath who was a colleague of Allen and Boger.

Too many variants

The committee came up with more questions than answers. The sense was that there was a measurable energy in people and in remedies, although the nature of the energy is unknown. The quality of the energy seemed to be affected by heat, light, and magnetism. It is also affected by the mental state of the patient and the operator. 

"It seems reasonable to deduce that there is a band of energy comparable to the spectrum of light and it can be called the 'energy of Abrams.' The outstanding difficulty in the practical use of the phenomenon is the necessity of a living subject for the detector."

The committee concluded: 

"The phenomenon can be utilized for selecting curative measures, especially for remedies having a homeopathic relation to the patient. All the phenomena connected with the energy and the reactions are very delicate and labile and their control is difficult. Their importance, however, is sufficient to command the attention of the best minds in medicine." 

It should be mentioned that there was, in the mind of the committee, a great difference between these devices being used by experienced homeopath and the devices being used primarily as a diagnostic tool without intimate knowledge of the homeopathic materia medica. The difficulties and concerns expressed at that time are still with us.

A number of people, some of them homeopaths, continued research in this area, and several homeopaths, one of the most prominent being Arthur Grimmer, M.D., used an Abrams-like device to determine the simillimum in difficult cases.


Dr. Stearns took up Boyd's work in the USA worked out the autonomic reflex testing of remedies directly on the human body. He demonstrated that the autonomic nervous systems reacts to homeopathic remedies on mere contact or at a distance if the constitution is susceptible to their action. This testing works with standard clinical reflexes such as the pulse, heart beat, respiration, pupil dilation, the act of percussing the abdominal and chest cavities, palpation of tissue and muscles, changes in small blood vessels on translumination, as well as a number of changes in sense and touch sensations, etc. He even observed the reactions of the heart directly by fluoroscope and changes in galvanic skin response through rubbing a dielectric rod made of glass, rubber, or bakelite, on the abdominal area.

Classical Osteopathy 

Andrew Taylor Still and William Sutherland created a system centering on tuning the circulation of the life force and harmonizing its flow through the synergistic systems and fluids of the human organism without drugs. Modern osteopathy uses drugs and surgery.

These methods also work well in response to a classical osteopathic examination which analyzes the somatic structures of the body through palpation and motion testing of the cranium, spine, connective tissues, soft tissue, organs, etc. If irregularities are found in any of the areas of traditional medicinal and osteopathic testing, the imbalances or lesions will appear corrected by the presence of a homeopathic remedy in contact with the body. In this way those remedies which have a relationship to the individual can be discovered before one is given. 


Autonomic Reflex Testing 
by David Little

Stearns demonstrated that the most important effects which Boyd observed with the emanometer could be carried out directly on the human organism in question. This led to the use of clinical reflexes rather than using the various devices and became known as Autonomic Reflex Testing.

Today most of the individuals who are doing radionics have little background in classical homeopathy or traditional sciences. This was not the case with both Drs. Boyd and Stearns. 

Those interested in these areas of research should try and get a hold of "The Physical Basis of Homeopathy and a New Synthesis" by Guy Beckley Stearns, MD and Edgar D. Evia. Another review of this material was published in the Homeopathic Recorder in 1932.

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