General news

Announcements and non-science news

The April 2010 issue of Harper's Magazine's cover article examined the state of research on cell phone radiation.  Nathaniel Rich's article explores the apparently contradictory findings reported about studies in this area.

On June 17, 2010, the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco approved a rule requiring cell phone packaging to clearly display the amount of radiation each cell phone emits in an attempt to address public concerns about whether radiation from cell phones might cause health problems. In a 10-to-1 vote, the city’s Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that would require stores to post the specific absorption rates (SAR) of radio frequency radiation from cell phones. SAR measures the maximum amount of radiation absorbed by a person using a handset.  This is the country's first law requiring cell phone retailers to disclose the phones' SAR to customers.


At the recent annual meeting of the Bioelectromagnetics Society in Seoul, Korea, the Most Influential Journal Paper by Citations was awarded to:

Krause CM, Haarala C, Sillanmäki L,Koivisto M, Alanko K, Revonsuo A, Laine M, Hämäläinen H. Effects of electromagnetic field emitted by cellular phones on the EEG during an auditory memory task: a double blind replication study. Bioelectromagnetics 2004 January; 25(1):33–40.

Addtional details will be published in the next issue of the Bioelectromagnetics journal.

We learned recently of the death of Professor Barney De Villiers (Community Health: Department of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Stellenbosch, Cape Town, South Africa).  Following a sudden collapse, Professor Barney required emergency surgery for a leaking aortic aneurism. He reportedly responded well initially, but then took a turn for the worse and passed away on the night of 9 June 2010. 

In 2005, he served on a 20-member task group from 17 countries, assembled by Michael Repacholi, the head of the WHO EMF project, to finalize an Environmental Health Criteria (EHC) document to guide extremely low frequency (ELF) EMFs exposure standards around the world.  At the time of his death, he was a member of EU COST BM0704 Action Working Group 5: Risk Management.  In addition to his many important contributions to academic and occupational medicine, particularly in the field of nuclear safety and radiation, Prof Barney was known for his keen sense of humor, sharp wit, and canny wisdom; his exceptional ability to inspire and lead; and his ability to integrate information across a wide range of disciplines.



We learned recently of the death of Andre Bellossi, who had been proposed as a key speaker at the upcoming 6th International Workshop on Biological Effects of Electromagnetic Fields in October 2010 (see calendar in this newsletter).  The meeting will continue without him, and a colleague will be presenting a paper during a plenary session of the meeting describing work they had been working on together.  According to anonymous reports, Dr. Bellossi suffered a fatal heart attack in March 2010, and was buried in the cemetery of St. Gildas de Rhuys in the Gulf of Morbihan (Brittany, France).  Dr. Bellossi studied the physics of electrotherapy and presented his work at BioEM 2009 (the most recent joint meeting between BEMS and EBEA) in Davos, Switzerland.

Register before May 14, 2010 for the 32nd Annual Meeting of The Bioelectromagnetics Society in Seoul, Korea (June 14 - 18, 2010) to get the early registration price! 

Elected members

of the 2009 - 2010

Bioelectromagnetics Society Board of Directors

(year term ends)

Past-President:  Niels Kuster (2010)

President:  Michael Murphy (2011)

President-Elect:  Jeffrey Carson (2012)


Secretary:  Phillip Chadwick (2010)


Treasurer:  Vijayalaxmi (2010)

Treasurer-Elect:  Phillip Chadwick (2013)



Representing the Biological and Medical Sciences

Carl Blackman (2010)

Maren Federowitz (2010)

Ann Ranjnicek (2011)

David Black (2011)

Maria Rosaria Scarfi (2012)

P. Thomas Vernier (2012)



Representing the Engineering and Physical Sciences

Indira Chatterjee (2010)

Art Thansandote (2011)

Osamu Fujiwara (2012)



At-Large Board members

Chiyogi Ohkubo (2010)

Andrei Pakhomov (2011)

Andrew Wood (2012)

(Editor's note:  Contributor Niels Kuster, Past President of The Bioelectromagnetics Society, summarized content of his summary slides presented to the BEMS Board of Directors in February for this article.  The Board is still reviewing the reports of the Long Range Planning Committee.) 

Our Society’s mission is to be an international resource for excellence in scientific research, knowledge and understanding of the interaction of electromagnetic fields with biological systems. As an organization we must be optimally responsive to the advancement of bioelectromagnetics, while assuring that the administrative and organizational structures are effective and responsive to the objectives of the Society and the needs of the membership. The Society has maintained its presence in the professional community primarily via its journal and annual meetings, but these are clearly uncertain times for bioelectromagnetic research. With expected decreases in research funding, membership, subscriptions, meeting attendance, difficulty in recruiting new members and a possible shift in focus to medical applications, the Society must look closely at its many components and consider redefining its structure to provide for more effective responses to internal and external demands and circumstances.

Since its inception, our Society has engaged the costly services of a professional management company.  While this was a fiscally viable option in the past when substantial interest in bioelectromagnetic risks attracted many commercial and government sponsors, the issue needs to be revisited. Past income and expense statements show that the management costs and expenses of slightly over US$100K were largely paid for by the profits of the BEM journal and annual meeting sponsorships. It is clear that the Society cannot afford its current operational expenses based solely on membership dues and annual meeting revenue without continued or even significantly increased sponsorship.

The Long Range Planning Committee along with members of EBEA convened several times during the past year to analyze its management structure and to develop long-term strategies to reduce costs and to make the Society more attractive. The various models proposed range from selectively improving the status quo at its weakest points to reorganizing the Society as an academic organization that is managed by its members on a volunteer basis (e.g., support the President or managing Board Member with a 50% secretarial responsibility for dues, membership, webpage, etc.).

More specifically, constructive solutions include modernizing the Society’s communication channels by developing an attractive and interactive website and hosting more web meetings. A volunteer based member management structure would reduce the management costs from over US$100K to approximately US$30K. Committed local members can feasibly organize the meetings of reasonable quality, as proven at the 2009 meeting in Davos. The length of the terms of office of the president and perhaps other board members should also be extended to two and four years respectively. There is currently insufficient time for elected officers to consolidate shared experience and effectively implement new strategies, particularly for the President. There are also strong recommendations to hold the annual meetings at academic venues (e.g., universities) instead of commercial settings (hotels, convention centers, etc.) to reduce costs. Such radical changes will be required before EBEA considers merging with BEMS. Maintaining two organizations with largely identical objectives might not be a viable option for either society if membership and funding declines; however, resistance to merging still exists, as many European members still perceive BEMS as an internationalized US society mainly because of its management structure.

Pursuing radical change is never easy though.  The Long Range Planning Committee decided “to not break what works,” but cautions us to be prepared for change should it be economically necessary. The current trends in membership, sponsorship and funding will be carefully monitored until the Annual Meetings in Seoul and Halifax before making final decisions about restructuring. The various restructuring models will be further refined until then.

Mindful of the future and of strengthening the academic aspects of the Society, selective improvements continue. New strategies, e.g., Best Paper Award, have already been implemented to increase the overall general appeal of the Journal to a wider scientific community and to potentially increase the number of institutional subscriptions. A new website will be introduced this summer thanks to the great efforts of our President-Elect, Jeff Carson. The 2011 Annual Meeting in Halifax will be held at the University at minimal costs. I hope the new leadership will continue this trend to depoliticize the Society and return it to the researchers. There is still a plethora of interesting problems and topics to explore and understand!

As we continue to revitalize our Society, we must endeavor to develop a sustainable vision for maintaining the economic and scientific viability of our Society while reinforcing the fundamental objectives of the Society that have bound us together for all these years.

Hermann Berg

16 July 1924 -17 April 2010

Professor Hermann Berg passed away at the age of 85 and is remembered here by three people who worked with him.

Prof. Vladimir N. Binhi, General Physics Institute RAS, recalls:

I knew Hermann personally from meetings as an accommodating, friendly man, who was bright in his profound judgments.

I first met Prof. Berg in 1996 while attending the 3rd International Congress of the EBEA in Nancy, France. Already at that time, Hermann Berg was interested in primary physical mechanisms that could explain paradoxical observations of the so-called nonthermal biological effects of electromagnetic fields.

Although his personal scientific career was related to the experimental study of electroporation in cells, cultures, and tissues, he maintained an interest in theoretical understanding for years. Some of Berg’s publications reviewed possible physical mechanisms underlying electromagnetic interaction with cells.  

I was pleased to meet this remarkable scientist again in 2002 at a regular Prague conference devoted mostly to nonthermal biological effects of electromagnetic fields. I could not guess that meeting would be our last. However, during the years, I had the great pleasure of communicating with Hermann via emails. His writings were always interspersed with wise generalizations and a good portion of his subtle humor.

Hermann was a broad-minded person who continually surprised me with his knowledge of the history and philosophy of science. The list of the published articles that he authored or coauthored numbers nearly 400! Professor Berg continued working almost to the time of his sudden and most untimely passing away.

Not long ago, Hermann found that specific pulsed electromagnetic exposures were effective in mitigating and even reversing the rapid development of some malignant tumors in mice. He was consumed with the possibility of applying this method in medical practice, and we discussed the physical parameters of a whole-body exposure system that would be sufficient to produce the necessary electromagnetic fields. These plans remained unexecuted. However, I believe many of Prof. Berg’s students, fired by his enthusiasm, will continue working with his findings and learn how to use them to treat cancer diseases.

Hermann will be in my memory forever. We will miss him as an intelligent, witty, and charismatic person.


BEMS member Marko Markov, Ph. D. commented:

I was surprised to learn for the death of my friend Herman Berg, even knowing that in last two years he was seriously ill and spent some time in the hospital.  Despite a serious difference in age (maybe 15 years) we were good friends. I visited him in his laboratory in Jena and he was a lecturer at two International Schools "Electromagnetic Fields and Biomembranes" I organized in Bulgaria.

But the most important for me was the first event: In 1975 I submitted an abstract for the Jena Symposium. Herman did not know who I was and offered me (at 34 years young!) the opportunity to be a member of the Scientific Committee and chair a session on EMF and membranes. As a result, I was able to attend the lunches and dinners with the most respected scientists in the area. You could not imagine how proud I was to see myself standing with scientists I had only dreamt of seeing (who, in addition, were the age of my father).  Every other year Herman invited me to Weimar for these traditional Symposiums. Because of him, I became a known member of Bioelectrochemical Society and started to attend the meetings of this Society.  Hermann Berg opened the doors for my participation in the international scientific community.

Prof. Herman Berg contributed greatly to developing the systematic research on the effect of electric and electromagnetic fields on biological systems. It was back in very early 1970’s when Herman, together with a small group of electrochemists, created the Bioelectrochemical Society. Herman was for decades amember of the Board of this (Bioelectrochemical) society.  After the death of Julio Milazzo, Dr. Berg became the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Bioelectrochemistry and Bioenergetics (today Bioelectrochemistry).

Over nearly two decades, the Jena Symposiums became a place of exchange of ideas, new research data and for establishing personal contacts between young and not so young scientists from all over the world. Herman was the organizer and driving force of these important scientific meetings.

It should be known that the doors of his laboratory were open for young scientists from Germany and world. If you had a chance to visit his laboratory you would see scientists from China, former Soviet Union, Romania, Bulgaria. As Bulgarian, I am proud to say that at least 10 of my co-patriots worked in his laboratory and received their Ph D in Jena.

When, in 1999, I published my first results on effects of magnetic fields in inhibition of angiogenesis and tumor growth in cancer tissues, Herman became very excited with this new opportunity of helping victims of cancer. He started research in his laboratory, published several very important papers and frequently asked me “What’s new with cancer therapy?"

Unfortunately his life and research were suddenly cut off.

You will be remembered as exceptional scientist, individual and friend, my dear Hermann.  


Colleague Stephen Smith, Ph.D. writes:

Hermann loved to visit other places, and cultures. He was a devotee of the American Wild West, and had a grand time at Fort Daniel Boone in Kentucky at the occasion of his birthday one year. He was also an admirer of the Japanese culture, and very knowledgeable about it.

Hermann was a gracious host when visiting scientists came to visit. He was an inveterate gardener, and loved to take visitors through the lovely hillside garden of his home. He was also a devoted family man, who loved his chlldren and grandchildren, as well as his lovely wife, Liebgard. We will sorely miss this outstanding scientist and good and long-time friend.