Dinshah P. Ghadiali was born in 1873 in Mumbai, India and died in 1966 in Malaga, New Jersey. From 1920 to 1959 he promoted quack spectro-chrome colored light therapy.
The degrees he claimed to had were Doctor of Chiropractic, Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Legal Law" (sic). He also claimed the following honors: Fellow and Ex-Vice-President, Allied Medical Associations of America, Member and Ex-Vice-President, National Association of Drugless Practitioners, President, All Cults Medical Association, President, American Association of Spectro-Chrome Therapists, President, American Anti-Vivisection Society, Member Anti-Vaccination League of London, Member American Association of Orificial Surgeons. None of which was true. It is known that during World War One he seems to have received a commission in the New York Police Reserve.
When the device he peddled, the Spectro-Chrome, was dismantled by a FDA agent, the agent described it “consisted essentially of a cabinet equipped with a 1000-watt floodlight bulb and electric fan, a container of water for cooling purposes, two glass condenser lenses for concentrating the light, and a number of glass slides of different colors.”
The machine looked like an aluminum slide projector mounted on a stand.
Col. Ghadiali claimed to be able to cure almost everything with its twelve colors. Examples: after intensive treatment with “attuned color waves,” a badly burned infant had satin-white silky skin; a blind girl’s sight had been restored; a paralyzed woman was able to walk again.
Ghadiali claimed his device was NOT a lamp; it was a system, a new, original and unique science. By 1946, he had sold nearly eleven thousand of the things, the most expensive of which cost $750...that's the equivalent of over $8,500 in today's dollars. Let's see...11,000 x $750 = $8,250,000!! Almost $95 million in today's dollars.
Those who purchased the device were members of the “Scientific Order of Spectro-Chrome Metrists” and were encouraged to wear a special purple skullcap as a symbol of their allegiance.
Patients, who came for rest-cures at the institute’s “Chromarium” had to adopt Ghadiali’s many prejudices: he was against high-heeled shoes, silk stockings, caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, pills, potions, furs and, get this, enemas.
Ghadiali also persuaded “patients” to follow his lead and become a vegetarian, gargle with salt, bathe in coconut oil, brush their teeth after each meal (surprise...he sold a special toothpaste). He also had another curious habit; he preferred squatting over a hole rather than using a toilet. Actually, he may have been on to something there. See the article For Best Toilet Health: Squat Or Sit?
Like a modern day televangelist, when people wrote to him asking about a cure for whatever ailed them he sent them a “Free Guidance Chart” with instructions about what colors to project where and when along with some personalized instructions.
The use of colored light treatment became fashionable in America in the late nineteenth century. While seeking a way to grow bigger grapes in his greenhouse in Philadelphia (the city where Ghadiali first established his Spectro-Chrome Institute), the retired general Augustus Pleasanton discovered that alternating panes of clear and blue glass was also the secret to restoring health. He published the results of these experiments. Seth Pancoast then published his Blue and Red Light: or, Light and its Rays as Medicine in which he cautioned against “light quacks.” Pancoast claimed to have cured an eight-year-old paraplegic, after only a week under red glass and a young widow suffering from severe sciatica, after only three treatments using blue light bath.
The along came Edwin Babbitt in 1878, an American teacher and mesmerist who described a complex color theory in The Principles of Light and Color. Babbitt believed that everyone radiated their own brightly colored energy and that sickness was visible to psychics as an upset in the natural harmony of this color field. He invented a device to restore equilibrium that he called the Chromolume. It was a stained-glass window composed of sixteen colors which sold for ten dollars.
The mania for chromo-therapy spread to Europe, where Charles Fere, a psychiatrist working at a hospital in Paris, used violet glass to create calming and curative effects. The fashion reached as far as India where Ghadiali, then working as the stage manager of a Bombay theater, applied Babbitt’s principles of color therapy when a friend’s niece was dying of mucous colitis, which no ordinary medication seemed able to cure. He made a DIY Chromolume out of an empty purple pickle bottle and a powerful kerosene lamp borrowed from the Highway Department; he irradiated milk in a blue glass container which he also had her drink. Within three days she was apparently totally cured and Ghadiali devoted the rest of his life to practicing what you might call medical showmanship.
Ghadiali emigrated to America in 1911 and set himself up as an inventor in New Jersey where he began to elaborate on Babbitt’s theories, mixing them with Parsee philosophy, and updating the Chromolume for the era of electric light. Four years after he arrived, the New York Times reported that he had filed a patent for the Dinshah Photokinephone, which he claimed was the first film projector able to coordinate sound with flickering images without the use of a phonograph. The article claimed that he already had “several inventions to his name,” such as the “Dinshah Automobile Engine Fault-Finder.” The Spectro-Chrome, invented after a wartime stint as a pilot in the New York Police Air Reserves (where he rose to the rank of Colonel), promised to be even more miraculous.
In case Ghadiali’s device appeared to be too simple, he obfuscated by using a language of his own to explain its workings. The therapists Ghadiali trained at the Spectro-Chrome Institute had to spend six hundred hours (!) studying his convoluted three-volume instruction manual, The Spectro-Chrome Metry Encyclopedia.
Ghadiali believed that the body was made up of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon, which were colored blue, red, green, and yellow respectively. When the four colors are out of balance, people become sick, and the Spectro-Chrome promised to restore a natural harmony. Ghadiali published a chart which showed the twenty-two parts of the body that particular colors should be projected onto to cure different illnesses, and specified the exact time of day each hour-long sitting should take place in a series of complicated regional astrological tables. “Tonations” had to take place in a darkened room while the patient was naked, with eyes open and head facing north, so the body would be aligned with the earth’s magnetic fields.
Ghadiali’s slogan was, “No Diagnosis, No Drugs, No Surgery.” “Stop Insulin at once,” he advised diabetics, “and irradiate yourself with Yellow Systemic alternated with Magenta on Areas 4 or 18 and eat plenty of Raw or Brown Sugar and all the Starches!!!.”
The inevitable was a run-in with the medical establishment. Ghadiali had never received any medical training and he would often appear in full military regalia in the advertising material he used as Colonel Dinshah P. Ghadiali (Honorary) M.D., M.E., D.C., Ph.D., LL.D., N.D., D.Opt., F.F.S., D.H.T., D.M.T., D.S.T. All of these qualifications, except the ones he awarded himself as president of the Spectro-Chrome Institute, were bought from diploma mills. He claimed doctors were envious and threatened by his cure-all.
In 1931, Ghadiali was arrested in Buffalo, New York for second-degree grand larceny after someone who had bought a Spectro-Chrome complained to officials that it did not perform as promised. Ghadiali persuaded three surgeons to testify in his defense.
Dr. Kate Baldwin, Senior Surgeon at the Women’s Hospital of Philadelphia, claimed that she had successfully treated glaucoma, tuberculosis, cancer, syphilis, gastric ulcers, and serious burns with the Spectro-Chrome. As a result, Ghadiali was acquitted (he’d already spent eighteen months in jail in 1925, accused of having sex with his secretary, who was underage, though he maintained he’d been framed by the Ku Klux Klan). In December, 1925, Ghadiali was sentenced to five years' in the Atlanta penitentiary. During his incarceration there was an outbreak among the prisoners in the penitentiary, and because of Ghadiali's services at that time, his sentence was commuted and he was released in March of 1929.
The American Medical Association, feeling that the government’s expert witnesses had been humiliated in the trial, began their own investigations. They concluded in 1935 that the Spectro-Chrome was worthless. Referring to it as a Rube Goldberg device.
After the passage of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, the government began to assemble evidence against Ghadiali. Finally, in 1946, Ghadiali appeared in court charged with introducing a misbranded article into interstate commerce, a violation of the criminal code. “The use of colored lights would have no effect on health,” the FDA concluded, “and when used as directed, or in any manner whatsoever, may delay appropriate treatment of serious diseases, resulting in serious or permanent injury or death to the user.”
Lawyers for the prosecution called seventy-six witnesses, including several of the experts in diabetes, heart disease, tuberculosis and cancer from whom they’d commissioned independent clinical trials and animal tests. They had found the Spectro-Chrome to be of no value and any cures that had been made were attributed to auto-suggestion or to the diseases and fevers having run their natural course.
The government proved that his claims to have cured patients were false and three had died from their conditions.
In his defense Ghadiali called over one hundred satisfied Spectro-Chrome; fifty-seven of whom suffered only from constipation. The trial lasted two months, but Ghadiali’s case crumbled when a patient he claimed to have cured of epilepsy went into seizures on the witness stand, slumped to the floor, vomited, and swallowed his tongue. A real doctor stopped him from choking to death by holding his tongue down with a pencil. After seven and a half hours’ deliberation, the jury returned to declare Ghadiali guilty; he was given a three-year prison sentence and fined $20,000; all his promotional literature was ordered to be burnt, and further production of Spectro-Chromes outlawed.
On his release in 1953, Ghadiali wasn't done. He simply changed the name of his organization to the Visible Spectrum Research Institute; in 1958, the FDA obtained a permanent injunction through a federal judge and closed him down.
He died in 1966, aged ninety-two. Ghadiali made millions of dollars, he died fourteen thousand dollars in debt. He spent his money on development, lectures, advertising, buildings, lawyers and very little for personal use. His son, Darius Ghadiali, took over the company and began selling his father’s books and pamphlets, but not his devices . However, he published a booklet describing how to build a Spectro-Chrome out of cardboard, filters and lamp. After Dinshah’s death in 1966, his son, Hom Jay Dinshah became the founder and president of the American Vegan Society and editor of its publication, Ahimsa magazine until his own death in 2000.
Colored light therapy is still around, just Google it.