PLEASE NOTE: An excellent new book entitled: GUIDE TO ELECTROTHERAPY
INSTRUMENTS AND HISTORY OF THEIR AMERICAN MAKERS by Dr. Dean P. Currier has
just been published. It contains 500 pages packed with fascinating historical
information and pictures. You will find the answers to just about any
question related to the history of these devices within its pages. It costs $
22.95. You may order it by calling Infinity Publishing Co. Toll Free at:
(877)-BUY-BOOK ...or by going to the web address:
DR. S. B. SMITH'S TORPEDO MAGNETIC MACHINE:(16KB)
This is a very early (1850) example of a so-called "quack" electrotherapy machine.
Almost as soon as it was discovered that the low voltages produced by
a battery could be stepped up to a high enough voltage to give
"tingling" electric shocks, early "Doctors" sold these "treatments"
to patients as cures for a wide variety of ills. These "quacks"
claimed that the treatments would cure just about any malady and the
early devices were made to look as impressive as possible to try to
convince the patient that they were complex and effective.
This very early device provided electric
shocks to patients who either held the two electrodes in their
hands or had them applied to various parts of their body by the
quack doctor. In the back of the box is the battery which consists
of a trough of zinc and a copper insert. When copper sulfate
solution was poured into the trough, the battery produced a
voltage of around 1.5 volts. The voltage was used to spin
the extremely early
electric motor seen in this photograph:(29KB).
The spinning electric motor interrupted the voltage going into the horizontal coil which acted as a step-up transformer to increase the battery voltage to a voltage high enough to give electric shocks. The intensity of the electric shocks was regulated by sliding a metal bar into the center of the coil. The farther the bar was slid into the coil, the greater the magnetic induction and therefore the greater the voltage.
This is a close-up photograph of the inside cover of the box showing "Dr. S. B. Smith's" office building:(35KB)
The text of the original 1850 PATENT for this machine:(4KB)
W.C. & J. NEFF ELECTRO MAGNETIC MACHINE PROBABLY MADE BY
PIKE:(32KB)This is a very early (pre-1850) example of a so-called "quack"
electrotherapy machine. Dr. Currier's book (mentioned above) shows a machine
that is identical to this machine in its wooden box and carrying the label of
Benjamin Pike Jr. of New York. The box is missing from this machine but the
gold lettering on the leather cover of the coil reads: ELECTRO MAGNETIC
MACHINES, MANUF. BY W.C. & J. NEFF, No. 3 1/2 S. Seventh St. Philada. It is
possible that NEFF may have manufactured these machines under some kind of
license from Pike or to fill specialized orders for Pike. A close inspection
of the hardware shows that the metal parts of the machine were mostly or
completely hand made.
Another perspective view of the NEFF Machine:
The underside of the NEFF Machine:
A closer view of the writing on the leather coil cover of the NEFF Machine:
Another closer view of the writing on the leather coil cover of the NEFF Machine:
VERY EARLY A. GAIFFE (PARIS) QUACK ELECTROTHERAPY
MACHINE:(18KB) This is a late 19th Century Electrotherapy machine
designed to give high-voltage electric shocks to 'cure' a wide variety
of maladies. The entire device is housed in a small folding wooden
case. The set consists of an early chemical battery, a buzzer-interrupter
designed to change the DC from the battery into high voltage pulses capable
of giving a tingling electric shock to the 'patient', and several electrodes
used to apply the shocks to different parts of the body.
The very unusual battery consists of two squares of zinc and a hard rubber
container used to hold the electrolyte solution. A tiny spoon is included
to facilitate stirring the electrolyte.
The buzzer-interrupter consists of a coil of wire wound around a metal core
into-which can be inserted a metal rod to vary the strength of the shocks.
The normally-closed contacts of the buzzer are connected to an ivory-handled
The supplied electrodes consist of a brass brush, a curved, pointed,
internal electrode, and two brass cylinders. Any of these electrodes can be
screwed onto insulated handles to prevent the 'doctor' from receiving
The Gaiffe Quack Electrotherapy
Machine showing the brush and probe electrodes screwed onto the insulating
The Gaiffe Quack Electrotherapy Machine showing the brass cylinder electrodes screwed onto the insulating handles:(33KB)
The Gaiffe Quack Electrotherapy Machine with wooden covers closed:(20KB)
THE ''ELECTREAT'' PAIN RELIEF MACHINE:(15KB)
This is another device designed to give moderate electric shocks
and claiming to treat pain. A single 1.5-volt battery
fits inside the handle and the intensity of the shock is adjusted
by the sliding control on the side of the handle. The label on
the bottom of the handle reads: ''ELECTREAT, RELIEVES PAIN,
ELECTREAT MFG CO, PEORIA, ILL. Pat: 6-3-19.
The label on the base of the handle of the ''ELECTREAT'':(39KB)
THE 'VIOLET RAY' CURE-ALL DEVICES:(14KB)
Tens of thousands of these kinds of Violet ray devices were sold and used
by quack doctors to 'cure' an extraordinarily wide range of
disorders. Reading from the instruction book that accompanied
this example of the machine, it claims to provide Health, Power,
and Beauty, and to cure: Problems with circulation of the blood, the
heart's action, bumps of the funny-bone, germ infections, weakness,
the waste of the body, congestion, impaired physical development,
pains and aches, complexion and skin diseases, facial and body
blemishes, hair loss, headaches, inflammation of joints, muscles,
nerves, Atrophy, circulatory disorders, constipation, deafness,
goitre, high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, insomnia
(sleeplessness-Brain Fag), indigestion, dyspepsia, neuritis,
nervousness, hysteria, melancholia, neurasthenia, neuralgia, obesity,
pain, paralysis, prostate gland problems, scalp diseases, falling
hair, dandruff, asthma, anemia, bronchitis, catarrh, hay fever, rose
fever, colds and other inflammations of the upper air passages, and,
of course, cancer.
The violet ray devices produced a very high voltage by stepping up the voltage from a wall-socket through the use of a step-up transformer. The low voltage in the primary coil induced a voltage into a many-turn secondary coil which stepped-up the voltage. This high voltage was impressed on the end of a glass tube filled with a gas which lighted up with a violet color when the voltage was applied. The lighted tube looked very impressive to a patient and became even more impressive as the 'doctor' described how it was 'curing' the patient.
A picture of the lighted tube treating a hand:(8KB)
Although this example is only supplied with three tubes, most violet ray machines were supplied with many different shapes of glass tubes to facilitate treatment of hard-to-reach parts of the human body.
THE CLARUS ANTI-EMF DEVICE:(12KB)
In recent years, considerable concern has been voiced regarding the possibly dangerous effects of Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) such as those produced by power lines, radio transmitters, and cellular telephones.
The Clarus anti-emf device claims to use ACD (Accumulated Capacitance Dispersion) Technology (tm) specifically developed for residential and commercial environments to reduce or eliminate the presence of possibly dangerous electromagnetic fields.
Other versions of Clarus ACD technology are also available for computer, video, vehicle, commercial, and industrial applications.
It carries a label which reads: "The Clarus system has been developed for experimental purposes only. It does not directly or indirectly diagnose, prescribe, or treat any health problems. Persons using it do so for experimental purposes only."
Opening the case reveals that it is a commercially produced digital table clock and a coil of wire hooked to an oscilloscope shows that its internal transformer and other parts radiate a 60Hz emf field of it's own.
RUSSIAN ELECTROSONE OR SOMNIATRON ELECTROSLEEP
MACHINE:(17KB)This is serial number 11 of the Russian Electrosone
electrosleep machine. It was manufactured in 1962 and it uses square
wave pulses of variable repetition rate and amplitude to induce and
maintain a state of sleep. The pulses are produced by a circuit which
uses a number of tubes. A special harness holds a pair of
electrodes over the patient's two eyes and on both sides of the back
of the neck so that the current passes on a plane through the
reticular formation of the brain. Our research has shown that 15 minutes
of stimulation not only puts a person to sleep but provides a
"feeling" of having had a 2-hour 'cat-nap' while 2 hours of
stimulation produce the "feeling" of having had an 8-hour sleep.
The device is not sold in this country but is widely used in
Russia especially in post-operative situations in which sleeping
pills would normally have been prescribed.
A closer view of the front panel:(18KB)
A front view of a patient with electrodes applied:(9KB)
A side view of a patient with electrodes applied:(10KB)
AMERICAN ELECTROSONE ELECTROSLEEP
MACHINE:(16KB)Although the Electrosleep machine could not
legally be sold in America, at least one was apparently produced
and marketed. This device carries a label which reads: Manufactured
for: Electrosone Corp. 375 Park Ave, New York, N.Y. By:
Vitro Laboratories division of Vitro Corporation of America,
West Orange Laboratory, 200 Pleasant Valley Way, West Orange,
N.J. 07052. Model Number RPB Ser. No. 10. The model and
serial number were hand-written on the label so it is possible
that this is the only one produced. Note how the two electrodes
apply the stimulating voltage to the same parts of a patients
head. One electrodes is fixed to apply voltage to the two eyes,
and one is put in place at the back of the neck. Unlike the
Russian version, this model uses a
very simple solid-state design:(17KB)
EARLY MARLIN TOY LIE DETECTOR CALIBRATED IN
ANGELS AND DEVILS:(10KB)This early lie detector was sold by
the Marlin toy company around 1950. It was equipped with
sensitivity and balance controls. The meter was adjusted to
zero and a movement to the right, up the meter scale indicated a 'lie'.
The meter scale was calibrated in 'angels and devils':(16KB)
The mechanism used a single tube and both Low and high voltage batteries:(18KB)
The unit was very sensitive and provided quite reliable readings.
EARLY TOY LIE DETECTOR KIT BY BOWMAN
ELECTRONICS:(13KB)This simple kit Made by Bowman Electronics
of Garwood, New Jersey provided an auditory
indication of: 'White lies', 'Grey lies', and 'Whoppers!'
FELLS DERMOHMMETER LABORATORY GALVANIC SKIN
RESPONSE METER:(17KB)This rack-mounted laboratory quality
dermohmmeter was capable of tracking and correcting for slowly
drifting changes in skin resistance by operating a mechanical
stepping-relay which modified it's sensitivity as the skin
resistance slowly changed. Thus it was capable of maintaining
a constant overall sensitivity despite the slow drifts in
skin resistance caused by the skin drying out under the
PSYCHOLOGY STUDENT LABORATORY
PSYCHOGALVANOMETER:(13KB)This simple student-model
psychogalvanometer measured changes in skin resistance using
a 9 volt internal battery and a one-transistor dc amplifier.
The large red knob allows the sensitivity to be adjusted
to keep the meter deflections within the range of the
LAFAYETTE INSTRUMENT CORP STUDENT LABORATORY PSYCHOGALVANOMETER:(15KB)
This sensitive instrument was offered
for use in student psychology laboratories. It used a sensitive
integrated-circuit amplifier and was also often used for serious
research experiments as well as instruction. It has adjustments
to zero the meter and set the sensitivity. The meter zero
adjustment allows it to be set to the absolute value of the
skin resistance at the start of a session. The sensitivity control
allows it to be adjusted to keep all of the subject's responses
within the range of the meter calibrations.
POLYGRAPH LIE DETECTOR:(16KB)
This lie detector combined a skin resistance measuring circuit
with a device which measured the breathing of the subject by
using a pneumatic tube around the subject's chest. It also
included an electrocardiograph to measure the subject's
heart rate responses. This allowed multiple physiological
measures of stress and thus a more reliable indication of
''SUPER SLEUTH'' TOY LIE DETECTOR:(16KB)
This is a nicely designed skin resistance measuring device housed
in an attractive case. It is quite accurate but the brass
electrodes interact with the skin salts to distort the
readings somewhat. It operates on a single 9-volt battery.
TOY RADIO SHACK KIT LIE DETECTOR:(21KB)
This simple lie detector was sold in kit form by Radio Shack
and the instructions made suggestions about how to use it as
a lie detector. It contains a very sensitive and well-designed
circuit with several discrete transistors and a 9 volt battery.
To save money, it used an audio tone rather than a meter
to indicate the subject's responses.
Although it was really a very high quality and reliable instrument, the instructions described how it could be used in party games to detect lying and I suspect that it may also have led to some VERY embarassing revelations because Radio Shack discontinued the design and came out with an electrically-identical unit (See next item) which was not called a lie detector but rather was called a biofeedback monitor.
TOY RADIO SHACK KIT BIOFEEDBACK
MONITOR:(18KB)This simple kit provides an auditory
tone which varies as the subject's skin resistance varies. The
skin resistance varies when the person perspires and perspiration
accompanies stress. Thus, the tone can be used to provide
biofeedback to help subjects learn deep relaxation techniques.
It uses a very sensitive and well-designed circuit.
SCHWINN EKG RATE MONITOR:(20KB)This
device provides a meter indication of heart rate using a
pair of hand-held electrodes. The heart rate information
may be used as biofeedback information to enhance attempts
to learn to control heart rate and/or improve relaxation.
This solid-state device made by Edmund Scientific Co.
provides a meter indication of
skeletal muscle activity. It is sensitive to even extremely
slight levels of activity and can be used as an indication of
muscle tension such as that which accompanies anxiety. It can
therefore be used to provide biofeedback information to
assist a subject in learning deep relaxation. The subject
simply watches the meter while trying different relaxation
strategies such as postural changes and relaxing thoughts.
When the meter goes down, it gives the subject
'biofeedback' that the subject is being successful in
relaxing more completely.
THOUGHT TECHNOLOGY LTD.
ELECTROMYOGRAPH:(17KB)This device provides a meter indication
of even extremely low levels of muscle activity and can therefore
be used to provide biofeedback showing how tense the skeletal
muscles are. This information can be used to enhance a subject's
ability to relax. An audio relaxation tape is included with
the set to act as an additional aid to learning deep relaxation.
MUSCLE AND NERVE STIMULATOR:(21KB)This
device is used to stimulate muscles and nerves. Properly adjusted,
it can provide relief from certain kinds of pain.
EARLY SPEECH SYNTHESIZER:(12KB)
This early kit was offered by Bell Telephone Laboratories in the
1960's. It consisted of three tunable filters which shaped the
adjustable frequency square wave pulses to form amazingly
realistic reproductions of human speech sounds.
A view of the simple 3-filter circuit:(21KB)
FREQUENCY-MODULATED LOW FREQUENCY MULTI-CHANNEL
TAPE RECORDER:(11KB)This 7 channel tape recorder employed
pulse-width modulation to allow it to record signals with
frequencies from 0 up to 1000 Hz. Thus, it could record many of
the low frequency physiological signals from the nervous system
which an amplitude-modulated tape recorder with it's typical
20-20,000 Hz frequency response could not record.
SCIENTIFIC INSTRUMENT MUSEUM:(4KB)
A museum of antique scientific instruments.
TELEGRAPH AND SCIENTIFIC INSTRUMENT CYBER-MUSEUMS, HISTORY AND COLLECTING
The main museum page.
MUSEUM OF THE HISTORY OF PSYCHOLOGICAL INSTRUMENTATION (4KB)
THE BARNARD COLLEGE HISTORY OF PSYCHOLOGY COLLECTION (2KB)
Professor Tom Perera
Montclair State University