In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Early research on the biological effects of microwave radiation: 1940-1960

Posted by seumasach on February 22, 2011

The early research on biological effects of microwave radiation between 1940-1960 is reviewed by Cook and colleagues and is available here for download as a pdf.

Cook, H.J., N.H. Steneck, A.J. Vander, and G.L. Kane. 1980.  Early Research on the Biological Effects of Microwave Radiation: 1940-1960.  Annals of Science 37:323-351.


Two overriding considerations shaped the development of early research on the biological effects of microwave radiation-possible medical application (diathermy) and uncertainty about the hazards of exposure to radar. Reports in the late 1940s and early 1950s of hazards resulting from microwave exposure led to the near abandonment of medical research related to microwave diathermy at the same time that military and industrial concern over hazards grew, culminating in the massive research effort known as ‘the Tri-Service program’ (1957-1960). Both the early focus on medical application and the later search for hazards played important roles in dictating how this field of research developed as a science.


I. Introduction . . . 323
2. Background, 1885-1940: early work on short-waves and therapy . . . 324
3. Early debates over thermal and nonthermal effects. . . 326
4. The war years and after,1940-1953: military interests in harmful effects . . . 330
5. Return to therapeutic interest . . . 332
6. The discovery of medical hazards  . . .  333
7. Renewed concern, 1903-1957; worries of industry . . . 335
8. The military response to industrial concern . . . 337
9. The Tri-Service era:’1907-1960 . . . 341
10. Safety standards and the ending of the Tri-Service program . . . 345
11. Conclusions . . . 348


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