The relationship between electromagnetism and life has been a source of fascination and controversy for more than 400 years. Today, interest in all facets of this relationship is at an unprecedented pitch. The body's intrinsic electromagnetic phenomena have been rediscovered, and the evidence suggests that, far from being unimportant by-products of biochemical activity as previously believed, they play a vital role in diverse physiological processes. The earth has a natural electromagnetic background, produced by the earth itself and by cosmic sources, and the age-old question as to whether this background can be detected by living organisms has now been answered in the affirmativethe earth's electromagnetic background is an important environmental factor for all living things. Clinical uses of electromagnetic energy are increasing and promise to expand into important areas in the near future.
But the coin has another side. The environment is now thoroughly polluted by man-made sources of electromagnetic radiation with frequencies and magnitudes never before present. Man's activities have probably changed the earth's electromagnetic background to a greater degree than they have changed any other natural physical attribute of the earthwhether the land, water, or atmosphere. The evidence now indicates that the present abnormal electromagnetic environment can constitute a health risk.
This book is our attempt to synthesize the various aspects of the role of electricity in biology, and to emphasize their underlying unity. To facilitate this, we divided primary responsibility for the major subject areas. Parts 1 and 2, which treat historical factors and the bioregulatory role of electromagnetic energy, were written by ROB; parts 3 and 4, which deal with bioeffects of artificial electromagnetic energy, were written by AAM.
The most apparent effects of electricityheat and shockare not treated here. Although there is some interest in the use of electromagnetic hyperthermia in cancer treatment, in general, both phenomena involve well-understood but relatively unimportant physical processes. In stark contrast, subthermal phenomena seem destined to revolutionize the study of biology.
We have tried to present our ideas to what we hope will be a broad range of readersscientists, engineers, physicians, students, and the general publicto stimulate and facilitate further research. We fully expect that we have made errors in evaluating some studies or theories, because such mistakes can always be expected in a first attempt to synthesize knowledge from diverse disciplines. We therefore ask the reader not to judge us too harshly. The book is not a definitive treatise, but only a guide to be used at the beginning of an exciting journey.
We owe the reader an explanation of our background in the area relating to the practical implications of this book. In the early I970's we recognized the existence of nonthermal biological effects of electromagnetic energywe saw that the evidence proved that such phenomena existedand we spoke and testified to this awareness. These activities earned us the opposition of an impressive array of individuals and organizations each of whom stood like the ancient king, Canute, and tried to command the tide of experimental studies to recede. We have diligently tried to prevent this controversy from coloring our analysis and conclusions, and we leave it to the reader to judge whether we have succeeded.
We acknowledge a great debt to the scientists who explored
the realm of electrobiology and whose legacy has enriched us all. We are
particularly indebted to Szent-Gyorgyi, Brown, Frey, Zaret, and Cope in
the United States and Presman, Kholodov, Sadchikova, and Udinstev in the
Soviet Union for their work. The preparation of this book was greatly aided
by the help and advice of our colleague Maria Reichmanis to whom we express
our gratitude. Finally, we acknowledge our debt to our family and particularly
our wives Lillian and Linda whose patience always, somehow, seemed equal
to the unreasonable demands of this book.