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.
Becker was known for his work in bioelectricity and leading the early opposition to high-voltage power lines. He has been named as one of the most influential figures in the area of anti-EMF activism.
Becker was born May 31, 1923 in River Edge, New Jersey to Otto Julius Becker and Elizabeth Blanck. 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. Becker was an intern at New York's Bellevue Hospital, then completed a residency Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital in Hanover, New Hampshire. Serving in the United States Army from 1942 to 1946, during World War II. Becker also served from 1951 to 1953 in the United States Army Medical Corps.
On September 14, 1946, Becker married Lillian Janet Moller in New Canaan, Connecticut. They resided in New York City and Valley Stream, New York before settling in Syracuse in the late 1950s. There, Becker joined the SUNY Upstate Medical Center.
Becker's research-related work was mainly research in electromedicine, within the two areas wound/fracture healing and regeneration of amputated limbs, supplemented with informing on electromagnetic pollution.
Bone fracture healing
Having observed in his clinical practice that broken bones sometimes failed to grow together, he set out to study experimentally why, and if external physical conditions could improve the growth. He found that a DC current through the broken bone (about 1 nanoampere) would greatly improve the growth and fusion of the bones. He was (for both fracture healing and regeneration) not concerned with the frequency aspect of the stimulation ? in contrast to e.g. Royal Rife and Hulda Clark.
Regeneration of amputated limbs
During this work, Becker found it significant that lower animals had much better regeneration capabilities: Salamanders could regrow lost limbs, while frogs seemed to be a little too high on the evolutionary ladder to achieve this regeneration. He studied these animals for years in order to find out why evolution caused impaired regeneration capabilities, and whether electric fields or currents could stimulate regeneration. His experiments and theorizing could be regarded as a continuation of the similar work of Harold Saxton Burr. Becker thought, like Burr, that some sort of field encompassed the body, governing and stimulating regeneration. He found that an electrostatic field, negative away from the limb stump, could enable regeneration of a frog limb.
Becker ascribed regeneration capability to the existence of a nucleus in the salamander's erythrocyte. (The mature erythrocytes of frogs and higher animals lacked nucleus.) Erythrocytes with nuclei seemed to have the dedifferentiation capability required for later differentiating into the various cell types needed in the growth area. Becker described these studies in his 1985 book The Body Electric, and also (condensed and compared with other fields) in the first part of his 1990 book Cross Currents.
His newest and most efficient regeneration/healing technique for humans is based on iontophoresis: Silver ions are pulled into the lesion area by means of a positive silver electrode placed upon the wound. This would create a regeneration-inducing blastema in human tissues that would else have atrophied. Becker patented this procedure in 1998, U.S. patent 70005556.
The patent summary explains:
The system is implemented as follows: a flexible, silver-containing anode is placed in contact with the wound, a cathode is placed on intact skin near the anode, and a wound-specific DC voltage is applied between the anode and the cathode.
Electrically-generated silver ions from the anode penetrate into the adjacent tissues and undergo a series of three reactions. First, the silver ions combine with proteins, peptides and various other chemical species normally present in solution in the tissues. The silver ions also combine with any bacteria, fungi or viruses present in the treatment area. If treatment is continued after all or most available sites for this type of reaction have been exhausted, the newly-generated silver ions associate with cells in the region, particularly fibroblast cells and epithelial cells, resulting in de-differentiation of these cells into embryonic cell types. Then, if treatment is continued after this second reaction is substantially complete, the free silver ions form a complex with collagen fibers present in the wound. This silver-collagen complex is believed to act as a biological inducer to activate the previously-produced de-differentiated fibroblast or epidermal cells to multiply and produce an adequate blastema.
In mammalian—including human—wounds...the resulting effects are analogous to those observed in animals that are naturally capable of regeneration. That is, the activated de-differentiated cells rapidly multiply to form a blastema that is adequate for supporting regeneration of the missing or injured tissues (skin, subcutaneous tissues, bone, and so forth).— U.S. patent 70005556
The uniqueness of Becker's research
The prevalent modern approach to regeneration therapy is to use stem-cells. Becker's electromedicine requires less sophisticated lab support, so it is more suitable for e.g. developing countries. It should be noted that he tried to learn from Nature and use natural healing processes as far as possible. The use of electric fields and currents simply recreates natural conditions found in lower animals which are more capable of regeneration.
Having discovered the physiological importance of electricity in the environment, Becker was deeply concerned with both the positive and negative effects of these influences. This is evidenced by the subtitle of the book in which he described and discussed these influences: Cross Currents. The Promise of Electromedicine, the Perils of Electropollution.
Having worked as an expert member in committees examining various potentially electropolluting projects, Becker became involved in public debates. The commonly held opinion among western scientists is that electromagnetic fields and waves influenced living tissues only through heating them, but Becker was certain that also non-thermal effects are harmful. He advocated far stricter limits for permitted electromagnetic emissions, being in agreement with an EU parliament report:
...it is most curious, to say the least, that the applicable official threshold values for limiting the health impact of extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields and high frequency waves were drawn up and proposed to international political institutions (WHO, European Commission, governments) by the ICNIRP, an NGO whose origin and structure are none too clear and which is furthermore suspected of having rather close links with the industries whose expansion is shaped by recommendations for maximum threshold values for the different frequencies of electromagnetic fields.— Report, Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs
This is in agreement with the much stricter safety limits established in eastern Europe. Becker asserted that the career and research finance problems he experienced in his later years were due to hostility from the electrical utility companies and the military, as he had sharply criticized the electropolluting activities of both.
In the years prior to his death, Becker lived in Lowville, New York. He died in Lowville's Lewis County General Hospital due to complications of pneumonia on May 14, 2008. He was survived by his wife, three children, and two grandchildren.
In 1964, Becker received the William S. Middleton Award from the the research and development agency of the United States Veterans Health Administration. The official research history of the SUNY Upstate Medical Center also states that Becker was awarded "the Nicholas Andry Award by the American Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons in 1979".
- "Dr. Robert O. Becker". Watertown Daily Times. Watertown, New York. May 29, 2008. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
- Miller, Stephen (June 11, 2008). "Robert Becker, 84, Raised Concerns Over Power Lines". The New York Sun. New York. Retrieved May 12, 2012. More than one of
- 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.
- Mae-Wan Ho, Fritz Albert Popp, Ulrich Warnke Bioelectrodynamics and biocommunication 1994, p. 21
- British Cell Phone Safety Alert and An Interview with Robert O. Becker, M. D
- Veterans Health Administration Office of Research and Development. "VA BLR&D Research Awards". http://www.research.va.gov/. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved May 16, 2012. External link in
- SUNY Upstate Department of Orthopedic Surgery Research History
- 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
A PubMed search gives 92 listings for Becker RO. The listings below are the 33 for which Becker is first author.
- The electrical response of human skeletal muscle to passive stretch. Becker RO. Surg Forum. 1960;10:828-31.
- A modified coaxial electrode for electromyography. Becker RO, Chamberlin JT. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1960 Apr;41:149-51.
- The bioelectric field pattern in the salamander and its simulation by an electronic analog. Becker RO. IRE Trans Med Electron. 1960 Jul;ME-7:202-7.
- The bioelectric factors in amphibian-limb regeneration. Becker RO. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1961 Jul;43-A:643-56. No abstract available.
- Search for Evidence of Axial Current Flow in Peripheral Nerves of Salamander. Becker RO. Science. 1961 Jul 14;134(3472):101-2.
- The direct current control system. A link between environment and organism. Becker RO, Bachman CH, Friedman H. N Y State J Med. 1962 Apr 15;62:1169-76.
- Longitudinal direct-current gradients of spinal nerves. Becker RO, Bachman CH, Slaughter WH. Nature. 1962 Nov 17;196:675-6.
- Relationship of geomagnetic environment to human biology. Becker RO. N Y State J Med. 1963 Aug 1;63:2215-9.
- Electron paramagnetic resonance in non-irradiated bone. Becker RO. Nature. 1963 Sep 28;199:1304-5.
- Photoelectric effects in human bone. Becker RO, Brown FM. Nature. 1965 Jun 26;206(991):1325-8.
- Bioelectric effects in tissue. Becker RO, Bachman CH. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1965 Nov-Dec;43:251-3.
- The control system governing bone growth in response to mechanical stress. Becker RO. J Ark Med Soc. 1966 Mar;62(10):404-6.
- Electron paramagnetic resonance spectra of bone and its major components. Becker RO, Marino AA. Nature. 1966 May 7;210(5036):583-8.
- A method for producing cellular dedifferentiation by means of very small electrical currents. Becker RO, Murray DG. Trans N Y Acad Sci. 1967 Mar;29(5):606-15.
- The electrical control of growth processes. Becker RO. Med Times. 1967 Jun;95(6):657-69.
- The trace elements of human bone. Becker RO, Spadaro JA, Berg EW. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1968 Mar;50(2):326-34
- The electrical control system regulating fracture healing in amphibians. Becker RO, Murray DG. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1970 Nov-Dec;73:169-98
- Stimulation of partial limb regeneration in rats. Becker RO. Nature. 1972 Jan 14;235(5333):109-11.
- Augmentation of regenerative healing in man. A possible alternative to prosthetic implantation. Becker RO. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1972 Mar-Apr;83:255-62.
- Electrical stimulation of partial limb regeneration in mammals. Becker RO, Spadaro JA. Bull N Y Acad Med. 1972 May;48(4):627-41.
- The basic biological data transmission and control system influenced by electrical forces. Becker RO. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1974;238:236-41
- Panel discussion: The role of electrical potential at the cellular level in growth and development. Becker RO, Cone CD, Jaffe LF, Parsegian VA, Pohl HA, Weiss L. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1974;238:451-6
- Regeneration of the ventricular myocardium in amphibians. Becker RO, Chapin S, Sherry R. Nature. 1974 Mar 8;248(444):145-7.
- The current status of electrically stimulated bone growth. Becker RO. ONA J. 1975 Feb;2(2):35-6
- Clinical experiences with low intensity direct current stimulation of bone growth. Becker RO, Spadaro JA, Marino AA. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1977 May;(124):75-83.
- Treatment of orthopaedic infections with electrically generated silver ions. A preliminary report. Becker RO, Spadaro JA. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1978 Oct;60(7):871-81.
- Electrical osteogenesis--pro and con. Becker RO. Calcif Tissue Res. 1978 Dec 8;26(2):93-7.
- The significance of electrically stimulated osteogenesis: more questions than answers. Becker RO. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1979 Jun;(141):266-74.
- Electrostimulation and undetected malignant tumors. Becker RO, Esper C. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1981 Nov-Dec;(161):336-9
- Electromagnetism and the revolution in medicine. Becker RO. Acupunct Electrother Res. 1987;12(1):75-9.
- Silver ions in the treatment of local infections. Becker RO. Met Based Drugs. 1999;6(4-5):311-4.
- Induced dedifferentiation: a possible alternative to embryonic stem cell transplants. Becker RO. NeuroRehabilitation. 2002;17(1):23-31.
- Exploring new horizons in electromedicine. Becker RO. J Altern Complement Med. 2004 Feb;10(1):17-8.
- Piezoelectricity in hydrated frozen bone and tendon. Marino AA, Becker RO. Nature. 1975 Feb 20;253(5493):627-8
- Piezoelectric effect and growth control in bone. Marino A, Becker RO. Nature. 1970 Oct 31;228(5270):473-4.
- Evidence for epitaxy in the formation of collagen and apatite. Marino AA, Becker RO. Nature. 1970 May 16;226(5246):652-3
- Size-specific metal complexing sites in native collagen. Spadaro JA, Becker RO, Bachman CH. Nature. 1970 Mar 21;225(5238):1134-6
- Temperature dependence of the EPR signal in tendon collagen. Marino AA, Becker RO. Nature. 1969 Apr 12;222(5189):164-5
- Correction concerning electron paramagnetic resonance in human bone mineral. Marino AA, Becker RO. Nature. 1969 Feb 15;221(5181):661
- Mechanically induced free radicals in bone. Marino AA, Becker RO. Nature. 1968 May 4;218(5140):466-7
- Effect of magnetic fields on reaction time performance. Friedman H, Becker RO, Bachman CH. Nature. 1967 Mar 4;213(5079):949-50
- Evidence for direct physical bonding between the collagen fibres and apatite cystals in bone. Marino AA, Becker RO. Nature. 1967 Feb 18;213(5077):697-8
- Effects of electric currents on bone in vivo. Bassett CA, Pawluk RJ, Becker RO. Nature. 1964 Nov 14;204:652-4
- Geomagnetic parameters and psychiatric hospital admissions. Friedman H, Becker RO, Bachman CH. Nature. 1963 Nov 16;200:626-8
- Generation of electric potentials by bone in response to mechanical stress. Bassett CA, Becker RO. Science. 1962 Sep 28;137(3535):1063-4
Free articles from PubMed:
- Silver ions in the treatment of local infections. Becker RO. Met Based Drugs. 1999;6(4-5):311-4
- Antifungal properties of electrically generated metallic ions. Berger TJ, Spadaro JA, Bierman R, Chapin SE, Becker RO. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1976 Nov;10(5):856-60
- Photoconductivity in bone and tendon. Fuller RG, Marino AA, Becker RO. Biophys J. 1976 Jul;16(7):845-6
- Electrically generated silver ions: quantitative effects on bacterial and mammalian cells. Berger TJ, Spadaro JA, Chapin SE, Becker RO. 1976 Feb;9(2):357-8
- Antibacterial effects of silver electrodes with weak direct current. Spadaro JA, Berger TJ, Barranco SD, Chapin SE, Becker RO. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1974 Nov;6(5):637-42
- Electrical stimulation of partial limb regeneration in mammals. Becker RO, Spadaro JA. Bull N Y Acad Med. 1972 May;48(4):627-41
- 4,528,265 1985 Processes and products involving cell modification
- 5,814,094 1998 Iontopheretic system for stimulation of tissue healing and regeneration
- 7,005,556 2006 Multilayer wound dressing
- 7,157,614 2007 Treatment devices providing targeted antimicrobial action
- Becker's abovementioned books.
- The 1998 patent