The Evolution of Charlotte Bach

Announcements placed on the social page of the London Times can range from the strange to the mundane depending on the sort of message being sent out.  Still, there were few announcements more off-beat that the one that ran on March 16, 1971.   On that day’s social news, readers found this advertisement on the bottom of the page:

Since scientific discoveries, unlike inventions, are not subject to patent protection and since it will take me some time before my findings are arranged suitably for publication, I wish to make the following statement:

Having investigated thoroughly and objectively all the phenomena at present haphazardly, incompletely subsumed under the blanket term ‘sexual deviation’ and in particular the phenomenon at present misleadingly termed ‘transsexuality’, I was able to establish the laws governing the phenomenon at present known as ethology as the ‘ritualization of displacement activities’.         

My findings (a) conclusively prove that the evolution of all aspects of the behaviour of all living organisms has occurred in accordance with these laws; (b) which in turn conclusively proves that the evolution of all living organisms has occurred with identical and in essence the same laws;  (c) which in turn leaves no reasonable doubt that the evolution of all inorganic matter must have occurred in an essentially homologous fashion.

These findings further (a) largely disprove Darwinian theory; (b) largely prove Lamarckian theory; (c) altogether prove beyond reasonable doubt all the main contentions of the theory at present known as ‘emergent evolution’. 

Bona fide scientific scrutiny is welcome.

Charlotte M. Bach (Ph.D.), Highgate, N6 6PT.

While not the usual for winning over scientific skeptics,  Dr. Charlotte Bach’s newspaper announcement was enough to win her an invitation to speak at Cambridge University’s Darwin College.  The fact that the invitation came from a student group rather than any faculty members was apparently not enough to discourage her enthusiasm though.   She did, however, write back warning that there was nothing titillating in her theories despite their dealing with sexual deviations.  She also included a photograph of herself so that her hosts could recognize her at the station (she described herself as “tall, fair, and not as young as I would like to be”).

Although she was graciously received at Darwin College, she would later comment that her lecture had been a waste of time since the undergraduates who attended lacked the “breadth of vision” to understand her ideas properly.   She was also discouraged that almost nobody in the audience had heard of ethologist Nikolas Tinbergen (who taught at Oxford and was a leading figure in animal psychology).    There were few, if any, faculty members in the audience and she received little more than polite applause for her efforts.

With no real prospect of having her radical ideas accepted by actual academics, Charlotte Bach apparently decided to bypass academia altogether.   Not long after the Cambridge lecture, author Colin Wilson received a 521-page typewritten document in the mail.   Exactly why Bach chose him to get her work published seems hard to understand.   Colin Wilson had made a name for himself in 1956  with his philosophical book, The Outsider, and went on to write more than two dozen books on crime, sexuality, philosophy and the occult.  

In the cover letter that Charlotte Bach included with the manuscript (titled “Homo Mutans, Homo Luminens”, she announced that it was only the first installment in what would be a 3,000 page treatise proving that sexual deviation was the driving principle of evolution.  Wilson was more than a little put off by the length of the manuscript, the cover letter (in capitalized letters on orange paper), and the prospect of actually being expected to read the entire thing.   He quit after the first fifty pages but later managed to finish it while laid up with the flu.    As he would write afterward, “It was hard going, but my misgivings was that she was just an absurdly conceited female.   She dismissed everyone she disagreed with  - Monod, Russel, Desmond Morris- with a lofty contempt that made her sound like a combination of Madame Blavatsky, Gertrude Stein and Indira Gandhi.”

Whatever his misgivings, Wilson concluded that Charlotte Bach had a "powerful and original mind" and wrote to tell her so.  He also stated that her work "could well be Nobel Prize stuff..  If you are right, then it could be as important as the theory of relativity."    The fact that Wilson was no scientist seemed not to matter to Bach.  Replying that she "wept for joy" over his comments,  she treated Wilson as a fast friend and often ended her letters to him with "love Charlotte".     When Wilson finally met her in person, he was surprised to find that she was a tall, heavily built woman with a masculine voice and a heavy Central European accent.   In describing her life history, she told Wilson that she had been a lecturer in psychology in Budapest before she and her husband became refugees in 1948.    She also stated that both her husband and son had been killed in separate tragedies only a few weeks apart in 1965.   The shock of losing her entire family led her to throw herself into her new theory about evolution.

With Colin Wilson behind her, she posted a new advertisement in the Times where she announced that "my theory of emergent evolution provides adequate grounds for a flat refutation of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle as well as a substantial modification of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity."  She also gave regular talks at a friend's flat which she advertised in local newspapers with lecture titles such as "Neo-Darwinism, relativity and gnosticism" and "Jung, Freud and alchemy."   The few people who did show up for the lectures were obliged to pay a "voluntary contribution" of fifty pence apiece.   For all her scholarly pretensions, Charlotte Bach was so poor that the newspaper took her to court to force payment for her newspaper ads.  

If her poverty bothered her, the lack of recognition bothered her even more.  She wrote regular letters to David Attenborough, Katherine Whitehorn and other prominent journalists and science presenters on television.   They all refused to write about her theories although Colin Wilson did his best to get her additional publicity.  He even published an interview with her in the London magazine Time Out.   Almost in spite of herself, Charlotte Bach gained a cult following among New Agers who declared her work on evolution, physics, and causality to be signs of undiscovered genius.  Aside from this small circle of supporters though, hardly anyone else really paid much attention.   Not only did academics regularly scorn her work but even the public was turned off by how hard it was to understand her convoluted theories.   Working through her 500-page magnum opus was bad enough, the 990-page appendix that she added to it was impossible for just about everybody.

With this lack of public recognition, the once-vibrant Charlotte Bach began wasting away.  By the sprint of 1981, friends noticed that she was becoming more emaciated and showing clear signs of liver problems.  On June 17, one of Charlotte's neighbours called police after seeing the regular milk delivery left by her door over the weekend.  When police entered the apartment, they found her body lying across the bed.   Official cause of death was listed as cancer of the liver but that was hardly the most astonishing discovery made about the late Charlotte Bach.

When the body was undressed in the mortuary,  the coroner discovered that Charlotte Bach was actually a man.  The revelation stunned her followers (though Colin Wilson thought it was hilarious).  It also led to inevitable questions about how much, if any of the elaborate stories "Charlotte Bach" had told about her past were actually true.   While some of her supporters claimed to have suspected all along,  the full story took much longer to unfold.   In Bach's will, she bequeathed various photographs and autobiographical essays that declared that she had been born in 1920 under the name Carl Hajdu.  The essays announced that she was actually a baron through the death of her older brother although this was fiction as well.

It would take extensive detective work on the part of journalist, Francis Wheen to piece together the entire story of Karoly Haidu/Charlotte Bach.   When published his findings in a 2002 book, Who Was Dr. Charlotte Bach?  Now hard to find, 41ECSYCAHWL._SL500_AA300_[1]Wheen's book traces Karoly Hajdu from his birth in a working-class town in Budapest (hardly the wealthy barony manor Bach had claimed).    Karoly apparently went through a variety of transformations and assumed names.  Under one of these names, "Michael Karoly", he wrote a book on hypnosis which included a case history of a transvestite (likely autobiographical).   An accomplished liar, what little actual information about Karoly's early childhood was provided by his sister, Vilma.    In her own letters about her brother (which Wheen provided in his book), Vilma desccribed him as an odd boy who spent most of his time in libraries and became alarmed as puberty struck and he became aware of his own transvestite tendencies. 

That Karoly faced persecution during the Nazi occupation and the later Russian occupation of Hungary is pretty much a given (both regimes were notorious for persecuting sexual minorities),  his chief solution to the problem seemed to be reinventing himself as often as needed.  First by turning himself into a Hungarian aristocrat, despite his working-class origins,  and then into "Michael Karoly, hypnotherapist".   Becoming Dr. Charlotte Bach was only the final step in his unlikely transformation.   Perhaps even more surprising was the lack of any real academic credentials.   Although "Michael Karoly" billed himself as a qualified hypnotherapist practicing in Great Britain,  his claims to actual training were bogus since he was almost completely self-taught.   While Francis Wheen did an excellent job of exploring as many details of "Dr. Bach's" life as he could, separating fact for the many fictions in Karoly/Charlotte's life seems almost impossible.   The only real documentation (aside from her unreliable memoirs) were the newspaper exposes of Karoly's various scams over the years. 

Despite his  marriage to a British woman during the 1950s (largely to gain formal refugee status), Karoly continued with his transvestite episodes which were still largely illegal under British law at the time.    Following the death of his wife and stepson in 1964,  "Michael Karoly" faced numerous charges of fraud over his bogus practice although he managed to avoid jail time.   While he had numerous affairs with women (and often exploited them financially), Karoly was completely immersed in his new role as a woman by the 1970s when "Dr. Charlotte Bach" attempted to take the academic world by storm.  Charlotte's past legal problems hardly stopped her from seeing patients for hypnotherapy and psychoanalysis.   She was also collecting unemployment benefits as Michael Karoly but was declared unemployable when she insisted on being hired as a woman.  Her family in Hungary seemed surprisingly accepting of the change when they finally found out but Charlotte had little real contact with them (aside from occasional requests for money). 

 So what motivated "Dr. Charlotte Bach" to propose a radically new theory of evolution?   Whether it was a way of fighting back against the persecution that she faced over being a transvestite (despite keeping it carefully hidden) or a genuine attempt at gaining academic respect,  she never really got the recognition that she craved.   Although the various fiction and non-fiction books that she wrote during her lifetime are largely forgotten, her legacy as one of the most unique evolutionary theorists of the last century can hardly be denied. 



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