Although the human aura has long been considered a psychic phenomenon visible only to gifted sensitives, some scientists have maintained that the aura is an objective reality and that such a radiation around human beings varies in different states of the individual's health. During the nineteenth century Karl von Reichenbach spent many years attempting to verify the existence of the aura, although he was ridiculed by many of his colleagues. In Britain the physician Walter J. Kilner (1847-1920), who knew of Reichenbach's experiments, devised a method of making the aura visible through spectacle screens or goggles impregnated with the chemical dicyanin. His work was developed further by other experimenters, notably Oscar Bagnall.
Then in 1958 Semyon Davidovich and his wife, Valentina Khrisanova Kirlian, two Soviet scientists, described electrophotography, a photographic technique of converting the nonelectrical properties of an object into electrical properties recorded on photographic film. They spent some 13 years in painstaking research. Eventually their work was endorsed by Soviet authorities and a new laboratory was provided for them in Krasnodarin the Kuban region of Southern Russia. Their technique of photographing what has become generally known as the "Kirlian aura" became well known in the West during the 1970s.
The method was a modern development of a technique known as early as the 1890s but not formerly applied to the human aura. In 1898 a Russian engineer and electrical researcher named Yakov Narkevich-Todko had demonstrated "electrographic photos" by using high-voltage spark discharges. The modern development by the Kirlians was influenced by study of acupuncture after Viktor Adamenko, a Soviet physicist, demonstrated the "tobiscope," a device to detect the acupuncture points of the human body. Various Kirlian photography devices were marketed in the United States and Europe to record biological fields around human beings, animals, and even plants. One such device available in Europe was known as a "Verograph."
Intense examination of the paranormal claims for Kirlian photography has shown that most of the early effects reported can be attributed to lack of proper controls in the laboratory. During the 1980s, reports of Kirlian effects all but disappeared.
Bagnall, Oscar. The Origin and Properties of the Human Aura. London, 1937. Rev. ed. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1970.
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991.
Davis, Mikol, and Earle Lune. Rainbows of Life: The Promise of Kirlian Photography. New York: Harper & Row, 1978.
Johnson, Kendall. The Living Aura: Radiation Field Photography and the Kirlian Effect. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1976.
Kilner, Walter J. The Human Atmosphere. London, 1911. Revised as The Human Aura. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1965.
Krippner, Stanley, and Daniel Rubin. Galaxies of Life: The Human Aura in Acupuncture and Kirlian Photography. Gordon & Breach, 1973. Reprinted as The Kirlian Aura: Photographing the Galaxies of Life. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Anchor, 1974. Reprinted as Energies of Consciousness. New York: Interface, 1976.
Moss, Thelma. The Body Electric: A Personal Journey into the Mysteries of Parapsychological Research, Bioenergy, and Kirlian Photography. London: Granada, 1981.