"Wilhelm Reich, Biologist portrays a fascinating, unexpected episode of the interwar life sciences, and provocatively calls for a reappraisal of Reich's laboratory work on the basis of novel archival insight."

       - Mathias Grote, Lecturer,
          Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

"Wilhelm Reich, Biologist is a bold and well-researched book, with refreshingly new perspectives on a famous and controversial scientist who continues to fascinate new audiences as a remarkable personality in the history of science."

       - Håvard Friis Nilsen,
          historian of psychoanalysis

Presents Reich above all as a scientist, a gifted researcher and a serious biologist...Strick's learned and thoroughly researched book contributes enormously not just to an understanding of Wilhelm Reich, but to the broader milieu of European biological science in the 1920s and '30s."

       - Paul Lerner,
          The Times Literary Supplement



Psychoanalyst, political theorist, pioneer of body therapies, prophet of the sexual revolution--all fitting titles, but Wilhelm Reich has never been recognized as a serious laboratory scientist, despite his experimentation with bioelectricity and unicellular organisms. Wilhelm Reich, Biologist is an eye-opening reappraisal of one of twentieth-century science's most controversial figures--perhaps the only writer whose scientific works were burned by both the Nazis and the U.S. government. Refuting allegations of "pseudoscience" that have long dogged Reich's research, James Strick argues that Reich's lab experiments in the mid-1930s represented the cutting edge of light microscopy and time-lapse micro-cinematography and deserve to be taken seriously as legitimate scientific contributions.

Trained in medicine and a student of Sigmund Freud, Reich took to the laboratory to determine if Freud's concept of libido was quantitatively measurable. His electrophysiological experiments led to his discovery of microscopic vesicles (he called them "bions"), which Reich hypothesized were instrumental in originating life from nonliving matter. Studying Reich's laboratory notes from recently opened archives, Strick presents a detailed account of the bion experiments, tracing how Reich eventually concluded he had discovered an unknown type of biological radiation he called "orgone." The bion experiments were foundational to Reich's theory of cancer and later investigations of orgone energy.

Reich's experimental findings and interpretations were considered discredited, but not because of shoddy lab technique, as has often been claimed. Scientific opposition to Reich's experiments, Strick contends, grew out of resistance to his unorthodox sexual theories and his Marxist political leanings.



James E. Strick, Ph.D.James Strick is Associate Professor in the Dept. of Earth and Environment and Chair of the Program in Science, Technology and Society, at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. Originally trained in microbiology (SUNY College of Environmental Science, 1983), and later in history of science (Princeton University, 1997), Dr. Strick has published extensively on the history of ideas and experiments about the origin of life, including Sparks of Life: Darwinism and the Victorian Debates over Spontaneous Generation (Harvard, 2000) and, with Steven Dick, The Living Universe: NASA and the Development of Astrobiology (Rutgers, 2004). He is also the editor of two six volume collections of primary sources: Evolution and the Spontaneous Generation Debate (Thoemmes, 2001) and The Origin of Life Debate: Molecules, Cells, and Generation (Thoemmes, 2004). Strick has been an advisory editor of ISIS and a member of the History of Science Society Council. Strick also taught high school and middle school biology, chemistry and environmental science from 1983-1993. He is very interested in science education and in the use of history of science as a tool in science pedagogy.



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A number of photos and primary source documents are available on the Resources page, including historical documents, examples of microphotography, and links for further reading and research.







Copyright © 2015 James E. Strick