Robert O. Becker

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Robert O. Becker
Born(1923-05-31)May 31, 1923
DiedMay 14, 2008(2008-05-14) (aged 84)
Alma materGettysburg College
New York University School of Medicine
Known forFather of Electromedicine
Electrochemically induced cellular regeneration
SpouseLillian Janet Moller
Scientific career
InstitutionsUpstate Medical Center at State University of New York
Veterans Administration Hospital

Robert Otto Becker (May 31, 1923 − May 14, 2008) was a U.S. orthopedic surgeon and researcher in electrophysiology/electromedicine. He worked mainly as professor at Upstate Medical Center in State University of New York, Syracuse, and as Director of Orthopedic Surgery at the Veterans Administration Hospital, Syracuse, New York.[1][2]

Becker was known for his work in bioelectricity and leading the early opposition to high-voltage power lines.[2] He has been named as one of the most influential figures in the area of anti-EMF activism.[3]

Early life[edit]

Becker was born May 31, 1923, in River Edge, New Jersey to Otto Julius Becker and Elizabeth Blanck.[1][2] He earned a bachelor's degree from Gettysburg College in 1946 and a medical degree from the New York University School of Medicine in 1948.[1][2] Becker was an intern at New York's Bellevue Hospital, then completed a residency Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital in Hanover, New Hampshire.[1][2] Serving in the United States Army from 1942 to 1946, during World War II.[1] Becker also served from 1951 to 1953 in the United States Army Medical Corps.[1][2]

On September 14, 1946, Becker married Lillian Janet Moller in New Canaan, Connecticut.[1] They resided in New York City and Valley Stream, New York before settling in Syracuse in the late 1950s.[1] There, Becker joined the SUNY Upstate Medical Center.[2]


Becker has been credited with furthering the awareness of the scientific community to the study of electric potentials in organisms.[4] His work showed that living organisms and animals show a direct current of electric charge which is measurable from their body surface.[4] In the 1960s Becker's research also showed that living bone can piezoelectrically generate electric potentials,[4] which led to work on using electricity in the treatment of ununited fractures.[5] Ultimately, however, the use of electrotherapy for increasing bone healing has not been shown to be effective.[6][7]

Becker believed that extrasensory perception could occur from extremely low frequency (ELF) waves.[8]

The Body Electric[edit]

The Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the Foundation of Life is a 1985 book by Becker and Gary Selden in which Becker, an orthopedic surgeon at SUNY Upstate working for the Veterans Administration, described his research into "our bioelectric selves".[9]


The first part of the book discusses regeneration, primarily in salamanders and frogs. Becker studied regeneration after lesions such as limb amputation, and hypothesized that electric fields played an important role in controlling the regeneration process. He mapped the electric potentials at various body parts during the regeneration, showing that the central part of the body normally was positive, and the limbs were negative. When a limb of a salamander or frog was amputated, the voltage at the cut (measured relative to the central part of the body) changed from about -10 mV (millivolts) to +20 mV or more the next day—a phenomenon called the current of injury. In a frog, the voltage would simply change to the normal negative level in four weeks or so, and no limb regeneration would take place. In a salamander, however, the voltage would during the first two weeks change from the +20 mV to -30 mV, and then normalize (to -10 mV) during the next two weeks—and the limb would be regenerated.

Becker then found that regeneration could be improved by applying electricity at the wound when there was a negative potential outside the amputation stub. He also found that bone has piezoelectric properties which would cause an application of force to generate a healing current, which stimulated growth at stress locations in accordance with Wolff's law.

In another part of the book Becker described potentials and magnetic fields in the nervous system, taking into account external influences like earth magnetism and solar winds. He measured the electrical properties along the skin surface, and concluded that at least the major parts of the acupuncture charts had an objective basis in reality.

In the last chapters of the book, Becker recounts his experiences as a member of an expert committee evaluating the physiological hazards of various electromagnetic pollutions. He presents research data which indicate that the deleterious effects are stronger than officially assumed. His contention is that the experts choosing the pollution limits are strongly influenced by the polluting industry.

In 1998 Becker filed a patent for an iontopheretic system for stimulation of tissue healing and regeneration.[10]

The title of the book is a reference to the fiction anthology I Sing the Body Electric by Ray Bradbury, itself a reference to the poem of the same name by Walt Whitman.


Library Journal called it "a highly informative book ... for educated lay readers".[11] Kirkus Reviews said that "speculative and heated" conclusions "vitiate much of the interesting, well-documented material".[12] The Sciences found that it was superficially well-told but with basic scientific errors and showing a lack of knowledge about recent biology.[13] A short-form review in The New York Times said it "ends with a proposal for a new vitalism."[14]


In 1964, Becker received the William S. Middleton Award from the research and development agency of the United States Veterans Health Administration.[15] The official research history of the SUNY Upstate Medical Center also states that Becker was awarded "the Nicolas Andry Award by the American Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons in 1979".[16]

Later life[edit]

In the years prior to his death, Becker lived in Lowville, New York.[2] He died in Lowville's Lewis County General Hospital due to complications of pneumonia on May 14, 2008.[1]

Published works[edit]


  • Electromagnetism and Life. State University of New York Press, Albany 1982, ISBN 0-87395-560-9
  • The Body Electric. Electromagnetism and the Foundation of Life (with Gary Selden). Morrow, New York 1985, ISBN 0-688-06971-1
  • Cross Currents. The Promise of Electromedicine, the Perils of Electropollution. Torcher, Los Angeles 1990, ISBN 0-87477-536-1

As publisher

  • Mechanisms of Growth Control, edited by Robert O. Becker. Thomas, Springfield 1981, ISBN 0-398-04469-4

Selected papers PubMed contains 91 listings for Becker RO. The listings below are some of those for which Becker is first author.


Iontopheretic system for stimulation of tissue healing and regeneration US 5814094 A 1998[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Dr. Robert O. Becker". Watertown Daily Times. Watertown, New York. May 29, 2008. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Miller, Stephen (June 11, 2008). "Robert Becker, 84, Raised Concerns Over Power Lines". The New York Sun. New York. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
  3. ^ Burgess, Adam (2004). "Radiating Uncertainty". Cellular Phones, Public Fears, and a Culture of Precaution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 146. ISBN 9780521520829. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c Bischof, Marco (1994). "The History of Bioelectromagnetism: The Instrument Era". In Ho, Mae-Wan; Popp, Fritz-Albert; Warnke, Ulrich (eds.). Bioelectrodynamics and Biocommunication. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co. p. 21. ISBN 9789810216658. Retrieved May 16, 2012.
  5. ^ Peltier, Leonard F. (1999) [1990]. "The Treatment of Ununited Fractures". Fractures: A History and Iconography of Their Treatment. San Francisco: Norman Publishing. p. 205. ISBN 9780930405168. Retrieved May 16, 2012.
  6. ^ Mollon B, da Silva V, Busse JW, Einhorn TA, Bhandari M (November 2008). "Electrical stimulation for long-bone fracture-healing: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials". J Bone Joint Surg Am. 90 (11): 2322–30. doi:10.2106/JBJS.H.00111. PMID 18978400.
  7. ^ Kooistra BW, Jain A,1 and Hanson BP (April–June 2009). "Electrical stimulation: Nonunions". Indian J Orthop. 43 (2): 149–55. doi:10.4103/0019-5413.50849. PMC 2762246. PMID 19838363.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Irwin, Harvey J; Watt, Caroline (2007). An introduction to parapsychology (5th ed.). Jefferson, N.C: McFarland & Company. p. 125. ISBN 9780786430598. OCLC 76828975. Retrieved 2017-01-19.
  9. ^ Howe, LM (2000-05-15). "British Cell Phone Safety Alert and An Interview with Robert O. Becker, M. D." Council on Wireless Technology Impacts. Retrieved 2012-04-06.
  10. ^ US 5814094, Becker, Robert O.; Flick, A. Bartholomew & Becker, Adam J., "Iontopheretic system for stimulation of tissue healing and regeneration", published 1998-09-29 
  11. ^ Reiser F, Fletcher J, Fialkoff F, Schwarzer A, Sutton J, Cameron J (February 15, 1985). "The Body Electric (Book)". Library Journal (serial online). Ipswich, MA: Academic Search Complete. 110 (3): 174.
  12. ^ "The Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the Foundation of Life". Kirkus Reviews. 19 February 1984. Retrieved 2022-06-30.
  13. ^ Adey, W. Ross [in French] (1986). "The Energy Around Us". The Sciences. 26 (1): 52–58. doi:10.1002/j.2326-1951.1986.tb02827.x.
  14. ^ "Science & Technology; Science in short". The New York Times. 21 April 1985. Retrieved 30 Jan 2013.
  15. ^ Veterans Health Administration Office of Research and Development. "VA BLR&D Research Awards". Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved May 16, 2012.
  16. ^ SUNY Upstate Department of Orthopedic Surgery Research History
  17. ^ "Iontopheretic system for stimulation of tissue healing and regeneration".