Carl Reichenbach

Baron Dr. Carl (Karl) Ludwig von Reichenbach (full name: Karl Ludwig Freiherr von Reichenbach) (February 12, 1788, Stuttgart - January 19, 1869, Leipzig, Germany) was a notable chemist, geologist, metallurgist, naturalist, industrialist and philosopher, and a member of the prestigious Prussian Academy of Sciences. He is best known for his discoveries of several chemical products of economic importance, extracted from tar, such as eupione, waxy paraffin, pittacal (the first synthetic dye) and phenol (an antiseptic). He also dedicated himself in his last years to research an unproved field of energy combining electricity, magnetism and heat, emanating from all living things, which he called the Odic force.


Reichenbach was educated at the University of Tübingen, where he obtained the degree of doctor of philosophy. At the age of 16 he conceived the idea of establishing a new German state in one of the South Sea islands, and for five years he devoted himself to this project. He formed a large secret association in Württemberg, until it was suppressed by the French authorities, on suspicion that its real objectives were political. Reichenbach was arrested and imprisoned for some months.

Afterwards, directing his attention to the application of science to the industrial arts, he visited most of the great manufacturing and metallurgical works of France and Germany, and established the first modern metallurgical company, with forges of his own in Villingen and Hausach in the Black Forest region of Southern Germany and later in Baden. In 1821, with Count Hugo of Salm, he commenced a number of manufacturing operations in Blansko, Moravia from which he soon secured an ample fortune; at about this time the King of Württemberg conferred on him the title of baron.

Baron Von Reichenbach's castle at Reisenberg was provided with an extensive scientific library and several scientific collections, including one of the finest of the world on meteorites as well as Sieber's great herbarium.

Scientific contributions

Reichenbach conducted original scientific investigations in many areas. The first geological monograph which appeared in Austria was his Geologische Mitteilungen aus Mähren (Vienna, 1834).

His position as the head of the large chemical works, iron furnaces and machine shops upon the great estate of Count Hugo secured to him excellent opportunities for conducting large-scale experimental research. From 1830 to 1834 he investigated complex products of the distillation of organic substances such as coal and wood tar, discovering a number of valuable hydrocarbon compounds including creosote, paraffin, eupione and phenol (antiseptics), pittacal and cidreret (synthetic dyestuffs), picamar (a perfume base), assamar, capnomor, and others. Under the name of eupione, Reichenbach included the mixture of hydrocarbon oils now known as waxy paraffin or coal oils. In his paper describing the substance, first published in the Neues Jahrbuch der Chemie und Physik, B, ii, he dwelt upon the economical importance of this and of its associate paraffins, whenever the methods of separating them cheaply from natural bituminous compounds would be established.

The Odic force

See main article Odic force

In 1839 Von Reichenbach retired from industry and entered upon an investigation of the pathology of the human nervous system. He studied neurasthenia, somnambulism, hysteria and phobia, crediting reports that these conditions were affected by the moon. After interviewing many patients he ruled out many causes and cures, but concluded that such maladies tended to affect people whose sensory faculties were unusually vivid. These he termed "sensitives".

Influenced by the works of Franz Anton Mesmer he hypothesised that the condition could be affected by environmental electromagnetism, but finally his investigations led him to propose a new imponderable force allied to magnetism, which he thought was an emanation from most substances, a kind of "life principle" which permeates and connects all living things. To this vitalist manifestation he gave the name Odic force.



  • Das Kreosot (1833)
  • Geologische Mitteilungen aus Mähren (Geological and physiological news from Moravia) (1834)
  • Physikalisch-physiologische Untersuchungen über die Dynamide des Magnetismus (1840)
  • Wer is sensitive, wer nicht? (Who is sensitive, who is not?) (1856)
  • Odisch-Magnetische Briefe (Odic-magnetic letters) (1852)
  • Der sensitive Mensch und sein Verhalten zum Ode (The sensitive human and his behaviour towards Od) (1854)
  • Odische Erweiterungen (1856)
  • Köhierglaube und Afterwissenschaft (1856)
  • Aphorismen über Sensibilität und Od (Aphorisms on Sensitivity and Od) (1866)
  • Die Odische Lohe (1867).


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