Biorhythm
Theory of biochemical phasing, which claims that human
beings experience three major biological cycles (1) a 23-day
cycle of physical strength, energy, and endurance, (2) a 28-day
cycle of emotional sensibility, intuition, and creative ability;
and (3) a 33-day cycle of mental activity, reasoning, and ambition.
Charts of these cycles indicate periods of maximum or
minimum potential in any of the three cycles, as well as critical
dates of stress when two or three of the cycles intersect. By
studying such advantageous or disadvantageous points of the
cycles, it is claimed that an individual can be aware of the best
and worst dates to maximize effort for success and confidence
and avoid over-stress at dates of minimal confidence and energy.
The theory has some attraction as it relates to other natural
cycles such as the ebb and flow of the tides and the menstrual
cycle in women.
Since body cycles relate to birth dates, the system of
biorhythms is analagous with medical astrology. During the
1970s the system became a popular fad. Some physicians attempted
to use biorhythm diagnostically, and some used
biorhythms to predict football games. Billie Jean King is said
to have won her famous match against Bobby Riggs when at a
‘‘high’’ in two of her cycles. Practitioners claimed that Judy Garland
and Marilyn Monroe committed suicide on their critical
days. The Omi Railway in Japan credited biorhythms with their
accident-free record of safety. Other Japanese firms and several
European airlines tested the use of biorhythms.
The concept of biorhythms was first proposed by William Fliess,
a German friend of Sigmund Freud. Fliess proposed two
basic cycles, and Austrian engineer Alfed Teltscher added the
idea of a third cycle. Herman Swoboda tied the cycles to the
birth date. Other writers also explored the idea through the
twentieth century, but in the early 1960s the writings of George
S. Thommen succeeded in popularizing the idea. Thommen
found a leading supporter in Bernard Gittelson. Apparatus designed
to simplify charting of biorhythm cycles have been developed
and include the biomate (a manual computer), and the
biolater (a small electronic calculator with mathematical functions).
During the 1970s various trials attempted to verify the
claims about biorhythm. The most notable were in the field of
sports where, it was predicted, outstanding performances
would tend to appear on days of biorhythmic highs. In fact, no
such patterns emerged. No empirical data exists to support the
biorhythm theory.
Sources
Bainbridge, William S. ‘‘Biorhythms Evaluating a Pseudoscience.’’
Skeptical Inquirer (springsummer 1978) 41–56.
Gittelson, Bernard. Bio-Rhythms A Personal Science. New
York Warner Books, 1977.
Luce, Gay Gaer. Body Time Physiological Rhythms and Social
Stress. New York Pantheon Books, 1971.
———. Biological Rhythms in Psychiatry and Medicine. Washington,
D.C. National Institute of Mental Health, 1970. Reprinted
as Biological Rhythms in Human and Animal Physiology.
New York Dover Books, 1971.
Schadewald, Robert. ‘‘Biorhythms A Critical Look at Critical
Days.’’ Fate (February 1979) 75–80.
Thommen, George. Is This Your Day New York Award,
1964.
Wernli, Hans J. Biorhythm A Scientific Exploration into the Life
Cycles of the Individual. New York Crown, 1961.