In Memorium: Nancy Wertheimer

An excess of electrical wiring configurations suggestive of high current-flow was noted in Colorado in 1976-1977 near the homes of children who developed cancer, as compared to the homes of control children. The finding was strongest for children who had spent their entire lives at the same address, and it appeared to be dose-related. It did not seem to be an artifact of neighborhood, street congestion, social class, or family structure. The reason for the correlation is uncertain; possible effects of current in the water pipes or of AC magnetic fields are suggested.

Am J Epidemiol. 1979 Mar;109(3):273-84

This short abstract, written by Nancy Wertheimer and her longtime partner, Ed Leeper, had a big impact on much of the work of BEMS members and lead to a series of New Yorker articles by Paul Brodeur that brought national attention to our fields of research. Dr. Wertheimer, born Lavina Steele MacKaye, a member of the Bioelectromagnetics Society for many years, died on Christmas day 2007 of complications from hip surgery.

Dr. Wertheimer was born in New Haven, Connecticut and attended the University of Michigan where she received her B.S. degree in psychology and biology. She received her M.A. and her Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Harvard and Radcliffe. Her post-graduate studies were in biochemistry at the University of Colorado and in Epidemiology at the University of Minnesota. She obtained an academic position in the Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Colorado Medical School as clinical Assistant Professor in 1980. In addition, she held positions at the Fort Logan Mental Health Center, the Mental Health Branch of the State of Colorado Department of Institutions, University of Colorado Psychology Department, Rockland State Hospital and Worcester State Hospital. She was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, and the American College of Epidemiology. Dr. Wertheimer’s early research was on metabolic efficiency, rheumatic fever and the incidence of schizophrenia. Her primary research on exposure to electromagnetic fields involving power lines and any ensuing health effects was never supported by major grants or contracts, yet the results of her efforts were published in Bioelectromagnetics, American Journal of Epidemiology, Science, International Journal of Epidemiology, Annals of the New York Academy of Science, Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, Health Physics Society Newsletter, and the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Wertheimer was the seventh recipient of the d’Arsonval Award, presented by BEMS to recognize outstanding achievement in bioelectromagnetics. Nancy was also an artist, creating sculptures of the human and animal figure in wood, stone, plaster, stained glass, and other media in her earlier work. Later she developed “found art” works in beautiful rocks and carved branches, tree roots, and driftwood. She is survived by her former husband Michael Wertheimer, their children Karellynne Watkins, Mark Wertheimer, and Benjamin Wertheimer, and eight grandchildren, as well as by her sister Jean Colby, her stepsister ZoAnn Hessmer, and her long-time friend and associate Ed Leeper.

A Memorial Service was held at the Boulder (Colorado, USA) Meeting of Friends (1825 Upland Ave.) at 3 pm on December 30th, 2007.