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The Bioelectromagnetics Society Newsletter and Internet Website welcome letters to the editor and articles that state an opinion or provide information of general interest to the Society. This includes, but is not limited to, technical comments on research, information about ongoing or proposed research, comments on the discipline of bioelectromagnetics, and comments about the Society and its governance. The newsletter and Web site will not print letters or articles of solicitation or advertisement. The newsletter will accept paid advertising inserts under certain conditions; consult the editor or the Society’s Executive Director.

In accepting materials the editor seeks to encourage the free exchange of ideas and differing points of view while maintaining balance, and fairness within the limitations of available space. The editor exercises judgment to eliminate inappropriate content such as unsubtantiated claims for influences on health and ad hominem

Scientist P5. The World Health Organization (WHO) Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments, Department for the Protection of the Human Environment, Occupational and Environmental Health is seeking a scientist to evaluate the scientific literature, identify gaps in knowledge and research needs, coordinate research and assess risk to human health and the environment from ionizing and non-ionizing radiation and workplace factors. To promote effective international and national cooperation with respect to health hazard assessment and control of radiation, and for accidents involving ionizing radiation emitted by nuclear reactors and other major accidents.

Position requires highest level of university degree with at least 10 years postgraduate research experience, senior management experience, ability to work at a senior level with other United Nations agencies and research programs. Technical excellence and strong organizational skills, multidisciplinary experience, managing research programs, at least five years coordinating health risk assessment, standards setting and compliance programs at the national or international level. At least five years working with NGOs and national authorities

This is a time-limited post for two years from date of recruitment. Excellent command of English or French with a working knowledge of the other is required; knowledge of another UN language helpful. More information is available at: vacancies Closing date for applications is December 1, 2000.

It is time once again to think about nominations for the Society’s D’Arsonval Award. The D’Arsonval Medal recognizes outstanding achievement in bioelectromagnetics. The Award, which consists of a silver medal, an illuminated testimonial, and a $1,000
honorarium, is presented at the Society’s Annual Meeting. It is given from time to time at the discretion of the Board of Directors, but no more than one is given per year.

The sole requirement is extraordinary accomplishment within the discipline of bioelectromagnetics, which can consist of exceptional scientific accomplishments or practical application of electromagnetic fields for human benefit. Membership in the Society is not a requirement. Nominations are now being solicited for an eighth Award in 2001. This year’s nominating deadline is December 18, 2000.

Previous D’Arsonval Award winners include:
Dr. Nancy Wertheimer, 1999;
Dr. Om P. Gandhi, 1995;
Dr. C. H. Durney, 1993;
Dr. C. A. L. Bassett, 1991;
Dr. W. Ross Adey, 1989;
Dr. Arthur W. Guy, 1987; and
Dr. Herman P. Schwan, 1985.

Any Full, Charter or Emeritus Member of the Society may nominate any person on the basis of their extraordinary accomplishments in bioelectromagnetics. Letters of nomination should present the reasons and justification for the nomination and a complete Curriculum Vita with publications must accompany the nomination. More than one Society member may nominate or endorse the same individual. However, only one Vita is required. The Society’s Nominating Committee may also nominate individuals for the Award. Nominations in proper order are retained and reconsidered for five years, but those who do not meet these guidelines will not be considered or retained. Current officers and members of the Board of Directors are not eligible to make or support nominations to the Awards Committee.

A six-member Awards Committee appointed by the President and approved by the Board administers the Award. Members serve a three-year term on a rotating basis; three each represent engineering and physical sciences, and experimental biology and medicine. A seventh member, a Chairman, will be selected from the Board of Directors during his/her first year of membership on the Board for a term of three years. Previous Award winners are included on the Awards Committee for a period of five years after receiving the Award. The Committee shall consider those individuals properly nominated during the previous five years and current nominations. The Chairman will be a nonvoting member except in the case of a tie vote.

a. Selection of a Recipient: The Committee shall evaluate the credentials of the individual proposed. When one or more candidates have been considered qualified for the Award, the Chairman will transmit in confidence a written recommendation with supporting information to the Board. The Board, in turn, may reject or accept any or all candidates during any calendar year. Acceptance of any candidate will require a two-thirds majority vote by the Board, with a quorum present and the Chair of the Awards Committee ineligible to vote. The Board may, if requested, authorize travel support to help cover the cost of the attendance of the nominee to the Annual Meeting.

b. Restrictions: No member of the Board of Directors or the Awards Committee shall be considered a nominee for this Award during his/her membership on the Board or Committee.

c. Timing: Decisions regarding the D’Arsonval medal shall be made by the Board during the Winter Board meeting before the Annual Meeting at which the Award is to be presented. Immediately after the decision, the Chairman of the Awards Committee shall notify the candidate(s), ensure his/her attendance at the Annual Meeting, and request that the candidate present a lecture at the Annual Meeting. The name of the candidate and the title of the lecture shall be published in the program for the meeting.

To ensure time for consideration by the Awards Committee, all nominations and supporting materials must reach the Chairman of the Awards Committee by December 18, 2000.

Please send all nominations and correspondence about the Award to the Awards Chairman, Dr. Larry Anderson, Battelle PNNL, PO Box 999, M/S P7-51, Richland, WA 99352. Tel: (509) 376-9635, Fax: (509) 376-9023. E-mail:

Past President Om P. Gandhi, of the Electrical Engineering Department of the University of Utah, has been selected to receive the 2001 Microwave Pioneer Award of the Microwave Theory and Techniques Society. Dr. Gandhi’s citation reads: “For Contributions to Dosimetry of Electromagnetic Radiation and Resulting Revisions of RF/Microwave Safety Standards.”

This award is given in recognition of a major, lasting contribu-tion, through publication in an archival journal, in the field of interest of MTT-S, at least twenty years prior to the year of the award and consists of a plaque, and an honorarium of two thousand five hundred dollars (US $2,500). The award will be conferred at the annual Society Awards Banquet to be held during the International Microwave Symposium the week of May 20-25, 2001, in Phoenix, AZ. Please accept BEM’s warmest congratulations on being named to receive this distiguished award!

In June 2001, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) plans to conduct a formal review of the scientific evidence for a link between cancer and exposure to static (DC) and extremely-low-frequency (ELF) electric and magnetic fields.

Scientists are now being invited to participate in this evaluation of EMF epidemiologic, animal, clinical and cell studies in collaboration with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International EMF Project, according to Dr. Jerry Rice, director of the IARC Monographs Programme. The Working Group meeting will meet from June 19 to 26 at IARC headquarters in Lyon, France.

This timetable was the focus of some concern at the WHO International EMF Project’s research review meeting at Brooks Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas, in November. EMF Project Director Dr. Michael Repacholi was asked whether WHO working groups considering RF cancer and non-cancer effects will wait for results of IARC’s very large, 14-nation epidemiologic study of cell phone use and health before making a final assessment.

Repacholi replied that “there will be some consideration” to amend the WHO timetable in order to allow significant studies such as the IARC investigation and meta-analysis to be included. “It will be tight, but we’ll keep an open mind,” he assured the audience in San Antonio.

Results of the evaluation and a brief synopsis of the review will be posted within a few days of the meeting on the Web at, according to Rice. Results also are to be published as volume 80 in the IARC Monographs series, probably in January 2002. A second evaluation, “Non-ionizing radiation, Part II: Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields and Radar,” is planned for June 2003. This schedule was set in April 1998 by IARC’s Advisory Group on Physical Agents.

At its Web site, IARC notes that because ELF-EMF exposure is ubiquitous in modern life and “because of widespread concerns in the general population, there is an urgent need for targeted epidemiological studies of particular types of exposure.”

IARC monographs are intended to communicate an expert Working Group’s assessment of potential hazards posed by both public and occupational exposure to chemical, physical and biological factors and to provide authoritative information about proven and possible human carcinogens. IARC’s scientific evaluations of the carcinogenicity of such exposures can then be used as a basis for “information, regulation and legislation by the research community, national authorities an international organizations,” according to the agency. IARC offers no regulatory or legislative recommendations, however.” Based on their review, IARC Working Group members assign an agent to one of the following categories: Group 1: The agent (mixture) is carcinogenic to humans. Group 2A: The agent (mixture) is probably carcinogenic to humans. Group 2B: The agent (mixture) is possibly carcinogenic to humans. Group 3: The agent is not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans. Group 4: The agent (mixture) is probably not carcinogenic to humans.

The monographs represent the first step in carcinogenic risk assessment, according to IARC, which involves examination of all relevant information in order to assess the strength of the available evidence that certain exposures could alter the incidence of cancer in humans. The second step is quantitative risk estimation. Monographs “may assist national and international authorities in making risk assessments and in formulating decisions concerning any necessary preventive measures.”

Monographs do not necessarily cite all the available literature, but only those data considered by the Working Group to be relevant to making the evaluation. Further, only reports that have been published or accepted for publication in the openly available scientific literature are reviewed by the working groups, with few exceptions.

The IARC process will be familiar to those who remember the June 1998 U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Science (NIEHS) EMF Working Group, whose members used some IARC procedures and guidelines in evaluating ELF EMF for the U.S. EMF RAPID Program. The NIEHS Working Group concluded that ELF EMF belonged in Group 2B, “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

Since its beginnings in 1972, IARC has published authoritative reports (monographs) on hazards posed by more than 850 agents. Its monographs on carcinogenicity to humans are widely respected for their integrity and accuracy. About 4000 copies of each are distributed in 57 countries.

More information on the IARC process, plus preambles to monographs, may be found on the Web at: pageroot/UNITS/index.htm

The Program of Imaging at the Lawson Health Research Institute and The University of Western Ontario (London Ontario Canada) have a Bioelectromagnetics Scientist Contract Position available immediately. The successful candidate will join seven other Ph.D. scientists in the Imaging Division and Ph.D. scientists in cell, animal and human physiology along with more than 40 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The successful candidate will be expected to develop an independent and collaborative research program in Bioelectromagnetics. Teaching responsibilities will include lecture/seminar courses and graduate student supervision through an appointment in the Medical Biophysics Department. Reporting directly to the Imaging Program Director of the LHRI, the successful candidate will be self-motivated, able to meet tight research and publication deadlines, provide entrepreneurial expertise to new ventures, and will be responsible for: Acquiring peer-reviewed and philanthropic funding for bioelectromagnetics research. Supervising undergraduate and graduate student projects. Development of Intellectual Property associated with bioelectromagnetics research.

The ideal candidate will possess an eclectic educational background with a Ph.D. in Medical Biophysics, or a related field, but also have a solid knowledge of bioelectromagnetics, psychology, neuroscience, statistics and other natural sciences including Complimentary/Alternative Healthcare practices. The preferred applicant would have a substantial work history including experience in private industry, small business, government and academia. Preference will be given to Canadian citizens and Permanent Residents of Canada. Remuneration and terms of the potentially renewable contract will be commensurate with experience. Complete applications are to be received no later than January 3, 2001.

Submit curriculum vitae and the names of three professional referees to: Frank Prato, Ph.D., FCCPM, ABMP, Program Director, Imaging, Lawson Health Research Institute, Department of Nuclear Medicine and Magnetic Resonance, St. Joseph’s Health Care, Room C522, 268 Grosvenor Street,, London, Ontario Canada N6A 4V2, Fax: (519) 646-6135 E-mail: HTTP:// HTTP://

We are honoring the memory of Mary Ellen O’Connor with this Student Award Fund. Mary Ellen O’Connor contributed immeasurably to The Bioelectromagnetics Society as President, Treasurer-Secretary, and Editor of the Bioelectromagnetics Society Newsletter.

The aim of this fund is to honor students pursuing bioelectromagnetics research in the areas of behavioral science, physiology, and related aspects of life science.

Awards will be made by The Bioelectromagnetics Society following procedures established by the Society and shall be made annually to coincide with the annual meeting, or otherwise at the discretion of the Society.

Contributions should be sent to:

Mary Ellen O’Connor Memorial Student Award Fund
Betty F. Sisken, Ph.D.
Center for Biomedical Engineering
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY 40506-0070

The views expressed in this column are those of the con-tributors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editorial staff or the organizations served by this newslet-ter. We encourage contributions which will further discus-sion of important issues to the Societies and assist in scien-tific progress in our area of interest. Your response to opin-ions expressed here are welcome. Letters on other matters are encouraged.

In this month’s OPINION column, by invitation of the edi-tors, two more writers add to the discussion surrounding what constitutes an established effect. Other opinions are welcome. What is yours?

The editors


One of the key problems in biolectromagnetics is our inability to reproduce some of the most interesting and controversial results. Irreproducible results have made it difficult to find funding and to gain acceptance for the field by both the scientific community and the public at large. Science is built on the ability to make predic-tions based on results that we have obtained in the past. In fact it has been said our understanding of the past is only as good as its ability to predict the future. If the field of bioelectromagnetics is going to move into the mainstream of science, the problem of reproducibility is one we are going to have to solve.

Our problems with obtaining reproducible results are based, in part, on two features of many of the important results. First, because of the complexity of biological systems we often do not know what the initial state of the system is. In some cases, we donít even know the most relevant variables. Second, we do not know what changes, at a physical level, lead to given biological endpoints. Most of the results that are easy to reproduce occur at relatively high levels of exposure over short periods of time. These biological changes occur quickly and are easy to observe. However, as we go from high levels of exposure to lower levels, longer exposures times, and more subtle biological changes, the experiments become more difficult to reproduce. For example, RF or low-frequency burns are easy to observe within a few minutes, but if we are looking for the difference between an electrical burn and a burn resulting from contact with a hot metal plate, then we have to look more carefully. In order to describe this problem, we need to be able to measure the differences in the effects of the distribution of the temperature rise in time and space for the hot plate and those which result from the electrical currents. Additionally, we need to worry about any effects of the fields on ion transport, chemical reaction rates, cell growth, etc.

If we look at problems that involve growth there are many variables only some of which we control. This is at least in part because competing effects (such as the ability of biological system to repair itself) become more important. Biological systems are designed to be robust against undesirable changes and feedback effects may cancel out perturbations caused by electric or mag-netic fields under most conditions. However, if the system is already stressed to the limit, these same fields may lead to undesired biological changes. The point to be made here is that we need to find a way to design our experiments so that they take into account biological complexity, are reproducible by others and can be built upon.

There are several approaches we can take. One approach which is nice, but often difficult to carry out is to start with simple physical models and build up from the action of electric or magnetic fields on electrons, ions or molecules, on through the changes in chemical reaction rates, to effects on cells and then organs and, finally, the overall behavior of the biological system. For example, we would like to be able to start with the oscillating motion of an ion and follow through with its effect on a membrane protein, the effect on the cell behavior and the organ of which it is a part. A problem with this approach is that we often do not know how to describe all the biological processes that are occurring normally. The physical models for which we can solve the mathematics are often too simple and lead to incorrect conclusions. For example, most of the models that have been proposed for treating the problems of signal-to-noise do not yet include the communications between cells. Additionally, they do not include the effects of long conducting paths (such as blood vessels) on the fields that may exist at membranes near the end of these conducting paths. They also do not deal with the problem of how the body or the cell uses coherence to separate important signals from the background of ongoing electrical activity in the body. This is not to say that the simple models are not important or that we should not try to explain our results this way, because when we can succeed, this is the clearest way to get reproducible results that can be built on. The simple models also force us to ask questions and design experiments that will be reproducible.

Another approach is to systematically look for compound effects when we are getting inconsistent results. An example of this kind of problem is the epidemiological studies on the association of power lines and childhood cancer. Approximately half these studies show an increased odds ratio and about half do not. The recent work by Wachtel, Pearson and Ebi show a much stronger effect for the combined effect of the proximity to power lines and high traffic density. It may be productive to go back through some of the previous, negative studies and check for the possibility of similar combined effects which could make a difference in the ultimate results.

Another area where we need to follow up is to see how stresses are associated with electric and magnetic fields. To do this we need have and understanding of how stresses affect a wide variety of biological functions including the immune system and other body defense mechanisms. We are seeing a number of widely different experiments by investigators scattered all over the world that indicate that both weak RF and exposures to low-frequency electric and magnetic field are behaving like low-level stress. These effects may be either positive or negative depending on the length of the exposure, its strength, other stress and the state of the body. What is needed is a set of experiments which lets us reproduce several of these results for the same animals and generate some new results that show a clear, cause-and-effect response to stress. If we can do this, it will take some of the mystery out of the field.
In summary, if we are going to become a useful part of the scientific community, we have move from the discovery of new effects to the design of experiments that others can reproduce and build on.


The NL editor, Mays Swicord, has asked me to contribute to his attempt to start scientific discussions in the NL. With that goal in mind, he suggested a long-term, but still quite current topic, is the distinction that scientists in bioelectromagnetics make between a scientific observation, presumably in a peer-reviewed publication, and an established effect. Mays also suggested that controversial statements are desirable (I suspect he wants to light some fires).

How can biologically-based science advance? Let us start with an empirical observation. Once empirical research is reported in the scientific, peer-reviewed literature, other scientists make judgments about the results, and examine how the results might affect their scientific world-view. Many scientists withhold judgment if the report is at odds with their world-view, and await the appearance of reports from the same group, or that groups’ collaborators or competitiors. However, once the original group publishes extensions of their findings, it behooves scientists to give closer atten-tion to the results because of the potential value to the scientific community. Finally, the phenomenon takes on substantial value when the fundamental findings are supported by the results of other scientists working in the same or correlative areas. At this point, the “weight of evidence” from empirical observations takes more prominence and may legitimately be expected to attract other scientists to adopt them as reference points when planning studies to test the implications for their own research. Once one or several more “independent” investigators, i.e., investigators working in their own labs, obtain results consistent with the original report, the collective results begin to move from observation toward established effect because it is increasingly unlikely that there is a common artifact as the cause of the effect. This movement of scientific observation to established effect can occur without the presence of any theoretical explanation of the reported phenomenon.

The description above envisions a more perfect world than actu-ally exists. Funding sources may not be present to fund the needed studies to extend the initial observation. This may occur because of unintended bias in review panels, or in lack of competition among funding sources to support the most “valuable” or “creative” proposals. Further, the experimental results may run counter to pre-conceived notions and thus meet strenuous opposition, both from experimentalists and theoreticians. The opposition is especially strong if some experimentalists cannot obtain similar results and if theoreticians are unable to work the observations into their own world-view. Obviously, with strong enough egos on both sides of an argument, productive debate can degenerate into base name-calling and distortions in the public record.

How has the advancement of new ideas been supported in Bioelectromagnetics? As expected, challenges are issued to scientists who report unexpected results, as they should be. What is important is how the scientists respond, and what is gained. It is instructive to look at two particular challenges, there were forced on the scientists by either very vocal or highly influential circumstances, to see if they are worth considering in the future. One challenge, very popular in the early 1990s, was to request the experiment be repeated in a double-blind fashion. The motivation to the researcher was either due to explicit requirements of funding sources, or to “win” the support of challengers would then accept the results as a legitimate finding, i.e., as real. Well, that was accomplished for one experiment I’m aware of and it had no impact other than to polarize the community further. The scientists who accepted the findings as real ignored such an uninteresting experiment, and those that did not accept the results in the first place either fell silent or just more openly denounced the experimenters. In a second case, it was stated that a result could not be accepted until it was repeated independently by others. When this challenge was met, the work continued to be ignored, and even denigrated by some observers. The finish line was moved further down the track. In effect, the challengers did not alter their position.

What are the lessons to scientists from these interactions? Should scientists ignore protestations by vocal individuals, and even by Agency representatives, claiming that their way is the only way to “establish” an effect? However well-meaning or mean-spirited these requests may be, by the examples above, they only resulted in the consumption of energy that could have been better spent by the scientists extending their results to other endpoints, to other levels of biological organization, and to potential beneficial applications where the medical community could be recruited to “establish” the influence of the exposure in human circumstances.

There have been examples of failures to independently replicate (or extend) peer-reviewed reports. In some cases, the failures have eventually been discovered to be due to unknown, but eventually-discovered variables that were not the same in the different laboratories. In other cases, the participants did not have the personal chemistry, and perhaps not the motivation or the financial support, to do the very difficult job of collaborative parameter searching to resolve the issues.

The problem of advancing science in Bioelectromagnetics is not too different from any other field. The two biggest obstacles in bioelectromagnetics may be personalities and funding sources. It might be useful to look at the way scientists are handling other current disagreements in science. The drinking water contaminant, dichloroacetic acid, which occurs due to water disinfection, is known to cause tumors in animals. The search for mode of action has cause it to be labeled a non-genotoxic carcinogen because of the oxidative responses it induces in target tissues. However, other scientists have found mutations in cells of the target tissue whenever tumors are present. Researchers in this field are debating the standard of proof that is needed to categorize the mode of action as genotoxic or non-genotoxic. This debate does seem to be taking place with participants maintaining mutual respect for each other while strongly disagreeing. There is also financial support for both sides to explore common ground.

To get a better perspective on our discipline’s particular problems “establishing” an effect not yet able to be predicted by fundamental theory, we only need to look at some folk medicines to see that an understanding of the underlying mechanism is not necessary for broad acceptance. Consider the case of aspirin, starting with an extract from willow bark in the 5th century BC, synthesis of the active ingredient 100 years ago, wide use starting 50-60 years ago, it has only been in the last 30 years that we have reached an understanding of its mechanism of action. The example of aspirin acceptance demonstrates that experimentation and adoption alone is a valid and useful route to “establishment.” This is not to denigrate the utility of ultimate mechanistic understanding, e.g., to design safer alternatives for individuals, or for symptoms, for which aspirin is counter-indicated. Nevertheless, the example does demonstrate the limited need for detailed mechanistic information before “establishment” of the phenomenon. This example may provide the most productive route to take for scientists seeking to “establish” effects in the area of bioelectromagnetics, because it is obvious to us all that EVERYTHING IN SCIENCE ACTS EXACTLY AS IT SHOULD, THE CHALLENGE IS TO DISCOVER WHY .

Charles Polk, 80, of Spring Hill Road, an Emeritus Professor of Electrical Engineering, and distinguished scientific researcher, died Nov. 6, at Rhode Island Hospital after a brief illness.

Prof. Polk, Chairman of the Electrical Engineering Department from 1959-1979, specialized in the controversial subject of assessing the health effects from exposure to power line and other electric and magnetic fields. He served as President and Vice-president of the Bioelectromagnetics Society from 1987-89. He was the Chairman of the Power Frequency Subcommittee of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Committee on Man and Radiation, and was a frequent speaker at international scientific gatherings and expert witness on the biological effects of power lines.

Prof. Polk held several patents, co-edited several books and authored over 80 scientific articles and abstracts on electromagnetic wave propagation, antennas, and electromagnetic noise of natural origin and interaction of electromagnetic fields with living systems.

Prof. Polk received a degree in French Literature from the University of Paris, Sorbonne, France and received his bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Washington University, St. Louis, MO. He received his master’s degree in Physics and doctorate in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.

He was Visiting Professor at Stanford University, CA and at the University of Wisconsin. From 1975-77 he was Head of Electrical Sciences and Analysis and Acting Director of the Engineering Division of the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Prof. Polk received many honors. Most recently, he was named as a Distinguished National Lecturer with the IEEE-Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Other awards included the Superior Accomplishment Award from the National Science Foundation in 1977 and the URI Aurelio Lucci Award for Faculty Excellence in 1989. He was elected Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering “for contributions to understanding earth-ionosphere cavity resonances and for leadership in engineering education.”

He was the husband of Dorothy Rose Lemp of St. Louis, Mo. They were married 54 years. He lived in Kingston for 41 years. Born in Vienna, Austria, Prof. Polk came to the U.S. in 1940.

He served in the US Army from 1943 –1946 and attained the rank of Technical Sargent.

Besides his wife, he leaves two sons, Dean F. Polk of Wenonah, New Jersey and Gerald W. Polk of Atlanta, GA; and two grandchildren. He was the brother of the late Fred Polk of New York.

In lieu of flowers the family request that donations be sent to Center for the Victims of Torture, 717 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455 or through the web site at


It is with much sadness that I learned of Charles Polk’s death. Charles was a good friend and valued colleague. I got to know him best when working on a chapter for the Bioelectromagnetics Handbook. His careful editorial reading and checking of results yielded revisions that greatly improved the final product. As a friend he was always willing to review a draft a paper, make helpful suggestions and I much valued his understanding of the physics of the problem at hand. He also would go out of his way to send you a paper that you might have missed and invariably it was one you were glad to read. Charles helpfulness defined what you want in a colleague and helped make the Bioelectromagnetics community a place where it is a pleasure to work.

Charles also set an example by showing how much one can contribute to the community long after the popular mythology suggests one should be playing golf or shuffle board in retirement and that one can enjoy doing it. We will miss the clarity of his insight, his thoughtfulness, his energy and his friendliness.
Frank Barnes

I find it remarkably difficult to believe that Charles has left us. There are some people in your life who you just think will always be there, and for me, Charles was one of these. I cannot think of a kinder and more pleasant individual than Charles. I am reminded of the discussion he had with my son this past summer in Munich where he relating his early years to K.C., who was quite surprised that Charles would even consider traveling to Germany given his past experiences. Charles pointed out to KC how everyone makes mistakes and how important it is to forgive and move on. I know for a fact that those few words, coming from Charles, had a tremendous impact on K.C. I will certainly miss Charles as a knowledgeable and industrious colleague, the egroups website will certainly have fewer, and less, detailed responses to questions regarding geophysical electromagnetic fields.
Ken McLeod

Charles was to me a friend, mentor, and role model. He encouraged and assisted with my Ph.D. work, collaborated with me on projects, and never strayed for a moment from the depth of character we all knew him for. He was the kind of person who sets the standard for service, kindness, and high quality work. The news of his death hit me hard, but later that day Shashi Mehta called and we both benefited from sharing thoughts on the exemplary life that Charles led. I’ll miss him, but will continue to be grateful for his friendship.
Paul Gailey

I regretfully join the rest of the bioelectromagnetics community in mourning the loss of our colleague and friend, Charles Polk. He was a sincere, warm human being and a precise, talented scientist. As an editor, I could trust him to deliver a carefully-thought-out opinion quickly. As a fellow member of the Society, I could enjoy his broad knowledge of culture, people and nature outside of the scientific sessions and learn from his careful analyses inside them. We will miss him.
Ben Greenebaum

I was particularly saddened by the news of Charles Polk’s passing. We have all been enriched, individually and as a Society, by our interactions with Charlie. He was never too busy to engage in a discussion of either the latest results or of the “established” dogma of electromagnetic research. For me, his insights into the interaction between physics and biology were especially helpful. Charles was the kind of man that one liked to be around - he was genuine, interested, friendly, and considerate. I have been blessed by my association with him.
Larry Anderson

I am very saddened to learn of the passing of a dear friend and colleague, Charles Polk. It was scarcely a month ago when we talked about plans to attend the BEMS meeting next June in Minneapolis and shortly afterward traveling to Europe. I really enjoyed talking with him whether its in Kingston or elsewhere. At so many conferences at home or abroad, we always made a point to talk. I am grateful for his service as chair of the Power Frequency subcommittee of the IEEE Committee on Man and Radiation. I applaud his highly successful effort as co-editor of the Handbook of Biological Effects of Electromagnetic Fields. He was a prolific writer and published widely on radio propagation, atmospheric electricity, and the interaction of extremely low frequency electric and magnetic fields with living organisms. Above all, Charles was such a gentleman and scholar. He relished in what he was doing. I’ll miss him.
Jim Lin

I am deeply saddened to learn of Charlie’s death. When we spoke last June in Munich, I thought to myself how little the passage of time has left its mark. Engaged, direct, warm-hearted, and cheerful, Charlie was a steady and active participant in life and science. It will be hard to let go of his company.

Early impressions linger in memory. I recall an early conversation with Charles, which occurred on slushy hiking trails in early summer in Colorado about twenty years ago. I already knew his name from his work on electric and magnetic fields generated by natural mechanisms in the earth and its atmosphere. I had formed an image of a titan, holding the globe in his hands for inspection of its electric and magnetic properties, but instead found a small man, unfashionably bundled against cold mountain winds, hiking expertly and alone except for a radiant joy. We paused to talk and I learned of his adventuresome solo trek that day, his Austrian roots, and was for the first time was touched by his warmth and patience. Over the years, Charlie and I have shared many brief conversations and a few lengthier ones. Sometimes he would approach me, pen and notebook in hand, eager to show how Maxwell’s equations led directly to the conclusions he had drawn about an urgent topic in Bioelectromagnetics and insistent to learn if I agreed. At times, his concentration was on his latest research, and at other times he was looking critically at the work of others. I grew used to his small, precise handwriting, clear thinking from first principles, and an insistent manner that was always asking for additional insights and for confirmation that he had not somehow misunderstood the ideas of another. We had many occasions to share frustrations while writing a consensus document to assess the ever-shifting, but never too clear status of research on biological and health effects of extremely low frequency fields. Though my patience may have frayed, and Charles’ was surely tried, he remained ever diligent, ever searching for truthful expression. His years of hard work have left us a great legacy. Some of this is obvious, such as the CRC Handbook that he edited with Elliot Postow, some that lives on from his contributions the Bioelectromagnetics Society and his service as its president, some from his many scientific discussions and papers, but the least palpable and most treasured are from the inspiration he leaves because of his unfailing good manners, wisdom about human nature, good humor, and kindliness. It grieves me that he his gone from our midst.
Asher Sheppard

I knew Charlie as long, if not longer and I must agree with every word you have written. Never will society and all his friends forget him. Ever a gentleman, ever a scientist/engineer, ever a friend.
Tom Rozzell

I am deeply saddened to learn of a very good friend’s passing. I was with Charles at a couple of meetings in recent years where I had an opportunity to talk to him at length. Charles effused warmth and an excitement about his work rarely seen in an individual who had contributed so much in his life. That he once lived in Lille, France as a young man escaping Nazi occupation of his country of birth came as a news to me since we were at this meeting in Lille at the time. Charles was a perfectionist who worked with me diligently as I was writing parts of a chapter for the second edition of his book. And of course we always talked about a couple of my former students from India who he had mentored for their Ph.D. at U of Rhode Island. We will miss Charles and his enthsiasm greatly.
Om Gandhi

I am most saddened and shocked to learn of Dr. Polk’s death. I only last saw him about 5 months and I had no idea that he was ill. He was a remarkable man whose great scientific contributions to bioelectromagnetics will never be forgotten. With deepest sympathy,
Shoogo Ueno

It is indeed very sad news. For so many years, whenever we met at meetings, our first encounter would be to share experiences about backpacking and mountain climbing. He was always so willing to help in editorial and committee matters. I shall miss his friendship.
Ross Adey

I was indeed deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Charlie Polk, another great bioelectromagnetics pioneer that we have lost this year. I have many fond memories of pleasant and stimulating discussions with Charlie over the last several decades. His contributions to BEMS, IEEE COMAR, the EPRI power line research program and other national and international organizations dealing with EMF biological effects has greatly enriched our knowledge and understanding of the field. The CRC Handbook of Biological Effects of Electromagnetic Fields, that Charlie edited with Elliot Postow, remains a prominent and easily reachable reference in my library that I use quite often. It will be a constant reminder to me of Dr. Polk and his capability and enthusiasm in the quantitation and teaching of a complex subject that was dear to his heart. I feel very fortunate to have known and worked with Charlie on various committees over a great part of my career. He will be sorely missed by all of us in the bioelectromagnetics community. I would like to extend my condolences and sympathy to Dr. Polk’s family.
Arthur (Bill) Guy

It was my great fortune to know, to work with, and to learn from Charles Polk for almost 15 years. Then, as now, I remain in awe of the scale of his humanity, intelligence, and his open-minded quest for truth. The latter is perhaps the most important facet of a great scientist. Charles had one of the most open, yet rigorous, minds regarding science I have known, and he continually impressed me every time I discussed research with him. He was not trained in biology but he was constantly interested in understanding biological studies - he truly appreciated the important contributions that can be made by engineering, physics, and biology, yet he scrupulously did not let any innate prejudices sometimes associated with these different fields of science to interfere with his quest for truth. Over the years Charles approached me countless times to discuss biological experiments in bioelectromagnetics. He was a source of great wisdom to many in the scientific community. I am not aware of any other scientist of his stature that displayed such a pure search for truth or possessed such an evenness and objectivity in evaluating interdisciplinary research. He was a wonderful man and great scientist, and he touched many of us over the years. Charles will be dearly missed.
Robert Liburdy

Published on: Feb 01, 2011

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