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Wilhelm Reich

Reich, Wilhelm (vĭlˈhĕlm rĪkh) [key], 1897–1957, Austrian psychiatrist and biophysicist. For many years a chief associate at Freud's Psychoanalytic Polyclinic in Vienna, he later broke with Freud and the psychoanalytic movement. Forced to leave Nazi Germany, he resettled in New York City in 1939 to continue independent research in biophysics. He taught (1939–41) at the New School for Social Research, and in 1942 he founded the Orgone Institute. According to Reich's theories the universe is permeated by a primal, mass-free phenomenon that he called orgone energy; in the human organism the lack of repeated total discharge of this energy through natural sexual release is considered the genesis not only of all individual neurosis but also of irrational social movements and collective neurotic disorder. Reich invented the orgone box, a device that he claimed would restore energy but that was declared a fraud by the Food and Drug Administration. In 1956 he was tried for contempt of court and violation of the Food and Drug Act and sentenced to two years in a federal penitentiary, where he died.

See his selected writings (1960); his autobiography, ed. by M. B. Higgins and R. Chester (tr. 1988); biographies by W. E. Mann and E. Hoffman (1983) and M. Saraf (1984); studies by C. Rycroft (1972), D. Boadella (1974), and C. Turner (2011).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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