Let me tell you about Dinshah P. Ghadiali and his Spectro-Chrome. Dinshah, as he like to be called, was born in India in 1873 and at least by his own account was a remarkable man. He began school at the ripe age of two and a half and by eleven he was an assistant to a professor of mathematics at a college in Bombay. This prodigy began to study medicine at the age of fourteen, but then we hear no more about his progress in this area. Probably because he saw no need to pursue these futile studies once he had independently discovered the key to health. Colour therapy.
Dinshah apparently came upon this discovery when he exposed a young girl “dying of colitis” to light from a lamp fitted with an indigo colored glass filter. Within three days, the girl was well and a career was launched. Dinshah opened an Electro-Medical Hall in India where he began to refine his treatment. By the time he came to America in 1911, he had a theory to go along with his colored lights. Every element, he said, exhibits a preponderance of one of the seven prismatic colors. Oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon, the elements that make up 97% of the body, are associated with blue, red, green and yellow. In health these colors are balanced but fall out of balance in disease. Therapy is simple; to cure disease administer the lacking colors or reduce colors that have become too brilliant.
Of course, Dinshah had exactly the method to use. His Spectro-Chrome was a box with a lightbulb and an opening that could be fitted with various colored filters. It was accompanied by The Spectro-Chrome Therapeutic Sytem guide detailing the appropriate colors to shine on a patient. Green light, for example, was a pituitary stimulant and germicide while scarlet was a genital stimulant. Any disease, save broken bones, was amenable to color therapy. The Spectro-Chrome was especially suited for use by intelligent people, Dinshah said, because “drugs quickly upset the nervo-vital balance of persons of high mental and spiritual development.” A pretty clever trap. The gullible, thinking themselves to be intelligent, ate it up.
To many people the argument about the benefit of color therapy seemed convincing. After all, they knew that premature babies were treated with blue light to cure them of jaundice, that sunlight was needed for the synthesis of vitamin D in the body and that plants absolutely required light for growth. Add to this the notion that chemists had shown that elements when heated emitted different colors of light, and Dinshah’s preposterous notions seemed to make sense. His slogan of “No diagnosis, No Drugs, No Surgery” also sat well with a public largely unsatisfied with current medical care. The non-invasive therapy and the promise of a cure for virtually any ailment was very appealing.
Iit wasn’t long before Dinshah ran into trouble with the establishment. He was labeled a fraud and a charlatan by the American Medical Association but managed to cunningly portray himself as a humanitarian who was being persecuted by the money-grabbing, ineffective, jealous physicians. To protect himself legally, Dinshah came up with some incredible lingo. He didn’t talk of cures, he spoke of “normalating” the body. Instead of treating patients he claimed “to restore their Radio-Active and Radio-Emanative Equilibrium.” This would be done with his light exposures, or “tonations.” Tonations would be carried out with the patient lying with his head to the north, so as to align the earth’s and the body’s magnetic field, of course.
In 1931 Dinshah had his first run-in with the law over the Spectro-Chrome. He was arraigned on second degree grand larceny after being charged by a former student who claimed that the Spectro-Chrome did not perform as promised. Dinshah trotted out numerous satisfied patients in his defense, incredibly including some physicians. A surgeon, Kate Baldwin, claimed that she had successfully treated glaucoma, tuberculosis, cancer, syphillis and a very serious burn case. The government countered with experts who testified that the Spectro-Chrome was nothing other than an ordinary lamp and that the successes were all due to the placebo effect. The prosecution could not prove the intent to defraud and Dinshah was found not guilty. He went back to selling more Spectro-Chromes, now claiming that he had been vindicated.
After the passage of the Food and Drug Act of 1938 which gave the FDA some teeth in regulating theraputic devices, the government began to assemble evidence against Dinshah. Finally in 1945 he was charged with introducing a misbranded article into interstate commerce, a violation of the criminal code. Once again he trotted out his satisfied patients, but this time there were no supporting physicians. His fate was virtually sealed when one of his star witnesses, whom Dinshah had “cured” of seizures, had a fit on the witness stand. The jury also heard how patients he had claimed had been cured had actually died. The prosecution brought a witness who Dinshah had repeatedly profiled in his advertising as having been cured of paralysis. She could not take a single step when the master urged her. And finally the court heard how the celebrated burn victim, described as a miracle cure by Dr. Baldwin in the previous trial had in fact died of her injuries. Another witness described how he had called Dinshah after his diabetic father had lapsed into a coma and was told to just shine the yellow light on him. He did, until the man died. Dinshah was heavily fined, his books and lamps were seized and he was put on five years probation.
The Dinshah legacy is still with us. Through the Dinshah Health Society of Malaga you can buy plans to build an inexpensive Spectro-Chrome from a light bulb, cardboard and colored plastic sheets. They apparently do not sell the finished product, but another company on the Internet does advertise Color Light Therapy Lamps “as recommended by Dinshah.” These look suspiciously like theater spot lights with colored gels.
It seems that today there is still enough ignorance about what light is, about disease processes and about how the body functions to allow the gullible to be victimized. The colorful Dinshah may have lived in what we think are enlightened times, but his pseudoscientific ideas smacked of the dark ages.