A human nervous system is necessary to operate a Hieronymus Machine

Thursday, June 13th, 2019

I was listening to the free preview of the audiobook edition of Atomic Adventures when the narrator mentioned the Hieronymus effect, which piqued my interest — and had nothing to do with Hieronymus Bosch or his macabre and nightmarish depictions of hell:

A Hieronymus machine is any of the patented radionics devices invented by electrical engineer Thomas Galen Hieronymus (21 November 1895–1988). Hieronymus received a U.S. Patent for his invention in 1949, which was described in the patent application title as a device for “detection of emanations from materials and measurement of the volumes thereof.”

The original “Radiation Analyzer” consisted of a chamber to hold a sample of material, a glass prism to refract the eloptic emanations coming from it, and a copper wire probe on a rotating armature to adjust the angle formed by the prism and the probe. Supposedly, eloptic emanations are refracted by the prism at different angles depending on the material. The detected eloptic signals were fed to a three-stage vacuum tube RF amplifier and conducted to a flat touch plate surrounded by a copper wire bifilar coil. By stroking the touch plate an operator could supposedly feel a sensation of “tingling” or “stickiness” when the eloptic energy was detected. As such, a human nervous system is considered to be necessary to operate a Hieronymus Machine.

Hieronymus subsequently designed solid-state versions of his Analyzers, substituting germanium transistors for crystal prisms and tunable capacitors for the rotating armature. He also designed and built various specialized devices designed for specific functions, including analysis of living organisms and production of homeopathic remedies. The most well-known Hieronymus Machine is the Eloptic Medical Analyzer, which supposedly analyzes and transmits eloptic energy to diagnose and treat medical conditions in plants and animals.

The theory of operation on which Hieronymus Machines are based is that all matter emits a kind of “radiation” that is not electromagnetic, but exhibits some of the characteristics of both light and electricity. The quality of this emanation is unique to every kind of matter, and therefore can be utilized for detection and analysis. Hieronymus coined the term “eloptic energy” to describe this radiation (from the words “electrical” and “optical”.) All of his machines were designed to detect and manipulate this eloptic energy. Eloptic emanations have never been detected by instruments designed to measure electromagnetic energies, no other evidence of their existence have been produced, and there is no mathematical theory of an eloptic field, so the theory is considered pseudoscientific and is not accepted by science.

The inventions of Hieronymus were championed by Astounding Science Fiction editor John W. Campbell in late 1950s and early 1960s editorials. A series of correspondences between the two men show that while Hieronymus was sure that someday his theories of eloptic energy would be proven and accepted by physical scientists, Campbell was convinced that the machines were based on psionics, related to the user’s paranormal or ESP powers.

As an example, Campbell believed one could create an eloptic receiver or similar device with the prisms and amplifiers represented by their cardboard or even schematic representations. Through the use of mental powers, such a machine would function as well as its “real” equivalent. In his autobiography, Hieronymus wrote, “I appreciated Mr. Campbell’s interest in my work, but over the years since then, I have concluded that he set back the acceptance of my work at least a hundred years by his continual emphasis on what he termed the supernatural or ‘magic’ aspects of a mind-controlled device he built by drawing the schematic of my patented instrument with India ink. The energy flowed over the lines of this drawing because India ink is conducting, but it isn’t worth a tinker’s damn for serious research or actual treating.”


  1. Adar says:

    Make it thunder. Just once. Make it thunder.

  2. Kirk says:

    It’s kind of amazing how much influence that Campbell had on things, when you think about it: All he really ever did was edit a couple of SF magazines, and when you go back and trace things out, there’s instance after instance where someone got an idea from him, or entire genres got started within SF.

    Most of the “psi” crap in popular psychology came out of stuff he first published in the 1940s-50s, and had a bunch of people going to actually look for it in the 60s-70s. To some degree, I think it warped the reality, just a little.

  3. Sam J. says:


    Here you go, “Mind Machines You Can Build” by G. Harry Stine


    same book first version


    Here’s another book on the same subject. Both of these are interesting. The Goodavage covers a lot more. The Stine book has a bit of interesting commentary but is mostly how they are built and a short explanation of the performance of each tool. Stine said that he cured a viral outbreak in his daughter with one of these machines. He said the rapidity of the destruction of the virus made him very afraid and he destroyed the machine. Supposedly these machines can destroy insect infestations on plants.


  4. Sam J. says:

    One last thing the only one of these I’ve used is dousing rods and I’ve been able to find the location of water pipes with them. I have no idea how but I know the rods turned when I walked over a buried water pipe. I did not know where the pipe was when walking over it but there was a plumber that did, because he buried it, and he said that where I indicated was where one of the water lines were. Spooky but that’s my experience.

  5. Bruce says:

    Campbell was editing Analog when a whole lot of smart engineers were reading Analog, and sending letters. General Abrams read Analog in Vietnam. Editing a magazine a lot of smart engineers read is real intellectual power.

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