December 4: James E. Strick and Kevin Hinchey on Wilhelm Reich’s Books

By , October 28, 2014

The Center for the History of Medicine presents:

The True Story of a Government-Ordered Book-Burning in America: Wilhelm Reich’s Books and Journals, and What Was in Them?

Wilhelm Reich

James E. Strick, Ph.D.: Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Earth & Environment, and of Technology & Science, Franklin and Marshall College, and

Kevin Hinchey: Filmmaker, Associate Director of The Wilhelm Reich Museum, and Board Member of The Wilhelm Reich Infant Trust


In 1956 and 1960, the US government carried out the burning of scientific books and journals by Austrian-born physician and research scientist Wilhelm Reich. Ironically, in 1939 Reich had emigrated to the US, fleeing the Nazis’ burning of his books.  What was in those books that was deemed so offensive as to be worthy not merely of being banned, but of outright destruction?

Franklin and Marshall College Historian of Science James Strick has delved in depth into the laboratory notebooks and other records in Reich’s archives, in an attempt to assess the common narrative that Reich’s experimental work was mere pseudoscience.  Strick focuses on some of Reich’s first experimental work, from 1934-1939, in which the famous psychoanalyst believed he had stumbled onto the origin of life from nonliving matter. In his new book from Harvard University Press, Wilhelm Reich, Biologist, Strick argues that these “bion experiments” are careful experimental work, up to the technical standards of the time, and even breaking new ground in areas such as time-lapse microcinematography.  So whatever conclusions one comes to about interpreting Reich’s observations, it’s no longer possible to dismiss them as pseudoscience.

Filmmaker Kevin Hinchey, at work on a documentary film about Reich’s work, will join Strick in this presentation to give some background on how the later confrontation developed between Reich and the US government, with the result that his work on the bion experiments was burned along with many other volumes.


December 4, 2014
5:00 PM

Minot Room, fifth floor
Countway Library of Medicine
Harvard Medical School
10 Shattuck Street, Boston MA 02115


This event is free and open to the public.
Registration is required.
To register, click here.

5 Responses to “December 4: James E. Strick and Kevin Hinchey on Wilhelm Reich’s Books”

  1. Larry Lemasters says:

    I would really like to come, but I am a full-time caretaker of partner with Parkinson’s. I am a big believer in the work of Reich, and am happy to see Professor Strick focusing on his scientific explorations. What I would like to know will the event talks be posted on the net, via you tube, social media sites, etc..? Or possibly published? If so, I would greatly appreciate receiving this information. Good luck, Larry Lemasters

  2. Kathryn Hammond Baker says:

    Thank you for your interest in the program. We won’t be recording the talk, unfortunately, but we will ask the speakers if they will be posting their slides. Best, Kathryn Hammond Baker, Deputy Director, Center for the History of Medicine

  3. john solt says:

    I was lucky to find a book by Reich in the late 1960s, one of 200 copies of The Mass Psychology of Fascism. You pose the question of why his books were banned and answer with “pseudoscience” but I think another reason is that in The Mass Psychology of Fascism Reich makes the broad argument that Hitler and Nazism wasn’t an aberration but is inherent in each of us. He called for the extraction of the inner Nazi, so to speak. America wasn’t ready at that time to consider such a radical thought, but even at the time I was surprised that it had been banned and was only published in a tiny edition. It reminded me of the button, “I never met a banned book I didn’t want to read.”

  4. Larry Bole says:

    I’m sorry I will be missing this event myself. I first learned of Wilhelm Reich when my wife was a TA for a course called “Philosophy of Love and Sex.”

    My interest was also piqued by Dusan Makavejev’s film, “WR: Mysteries of the Organism.”

    That’s an interesting comment about Reich’s idea of an “inner Nazi.” I’ve often thought there is an little fascist lurking inside of all of us, with the human tendency to sometimes subsume ourselves in ‘group think’.

    Fascism was certainly ‘in the air’ in the 1930s. I’m not the only person to compare the seemingly endless footage of booted, goose-stepping German soldiers in Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will” with Busby Berkeley’s choreography.

  5. Katrina says:

    Will there ever be another event like this again?

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