The Body Electric (book)

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The Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the Foundation of Life


Robert O. Becker and Gary Selden




Harper Paperbacks

Publication date

August 5, 1998 (paperback)

Media type






OCLC Number


Dewey Decimal

591.19/127 19

LC Classification

QP82.2.E43 B4 1985

This article is about a book on bioelectromagnetism. A book on Kirlian photography by Thelma Moss has a similar title.

The Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the Foundation of Life is a book by Robert O. Becker and Gary Selden in which Becker, an orthopedic surgeon at the time working for the Veterans Administration, describes his research into "our bioelectric selves".[1] It describes physiological research which is based on conventional physics.

The book was first published by William Morrow and Company in 1985. Becker was then at SUNY Upstate Department of Orthopedic Surgery, which in its Research History gives The Body Electric as the first source for this research. (This history also states that Becker was twice nominated for a Nobel prize.) The book was quoted 440 times by other papers on Google scholar (April 2012). The American Medical Student Association placed the book on the organization's national curriculum list for medical students.


Book summary

The book is divided into four parts.

Part 1: Growth and Regrowth

Becker was, as an orthopedic surgeon, interested in studying why normal bones heal, and why they sometimes fail to heal. The first part of the book discusses regeneration in various lower lifeforms, and then narrows down to comparing salamanders and frogs. Salamanders were known to have good limb regeneration capabilities, while frogs largely lacked this capability, due to being a little too high on the scale of evolution. Becker started studying regeneration after lesions such as limb amputation. He suspected that electric fields played an important role for controlling the regeneration process, and therefore mapped the electric potentials at various body parts during the regeneration. This mapping showed that the central parts of the body normally was positive, and the limbs negative. When a limb of a salamander or frog was amputated, the voltage at the cut 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.

Part 2: The Stimulating Current

The obvious next step for Becker was to ask: Could regeneration be improved by applying electricity at the wound? He found it could, and also that bone has piezoelectric properties which would cause an application of force to generate a healing current. This current evidently stimulated growth at stress locations in accordance with Wolff's law.

When observing healing of a broken frog bone, Becker saw that red blood cells in the fracture location would become thicker, start moving like amoebas and reactivate their DNA. He wrote: "We began to use an electron microscope to get a clearer view of these changes. At the end of the first week, the former erythrocytes had aquired a full complement of mitochondria and also ribosomes (the organelles where proteins are assembled), and they'd gotten rid of all the hemoglobin. By the third week they'd turned into cartilage-forming cells, which soon developed further into bone-forming cells. I wasn't happy with this turn of events. How could we reconcile what we saw with the findings of Pritchard, Bowden and Ruzicka?"

It turned out these researchers had studied the process at high temperatures, at which the frog would, like mammals, simply use periostal cell division. And previous research in Germany supported the blood cell dedifferention theory.

Becker was later able to observe frog blood cell dedifferentiation in vitro in an electric current. The current also enabled adult rats to partially regenerate an amputated limb.

Part 3: Our Hidden Healing Energy

Electricity from silver electrodes were found to have two important effects: Silver with a positive voltage was found to kill bacteria without disturbing bone regrowth, and silver with a negative voltage was found to stimulate bone regeneration without stimulating growth of infectious bacteria.

The following chapters discuss regeneration in various organs and various parts of the nervous system. These regeneration capabilities were known to be best in the lower part of the animal kingdom, deteriorating for higher animals, becoming weakest in humans. The propensity for getting cancer showed the opposite tendency: common in man, but rare in the low life forms. Meryl Rose had found that if cancer cells were placed in a salamander's amputation wound, they differentiated into the cell types needed there. This indicated a strengthened growth control in the amputation wound.

Part 4: The Essence of Life

The scope is now wider, with discussion of slow potentials and magnetic fields in the nervous system, and also taking into account external influences like earth magnetism and solar winds. Becker 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.

Topics like solar and lunar rhythms, and animal navigation, are then discussed. So are the origin and evolution of life, and how this could have been influenced by changes in the earth magnetism.

The importance of electromagnetic fields for life, as revealed through his research, lead Becker to worry about deleterious effects from electromagnetic pollution. In the last chapters of the book, he recounts his experiences as a member of an expert committee evaluating the physiological hazards of various electropolluting projects. He also presents various research data which indicate that the deleterious effects are stronger than officially assumed. His contention (supported by much evidence he presents) is that the experts choosing the pollution limits are strongly influenced by the polluting industry. This notion is supported by a comparison with Eastern Europe, where the research done by more independent scientists led to far stricter emission limits. It is also supported by (paragraph 29 in) an EU parliamentary assembly committee report.

See also


Other primary sources: The papers listed in the article Robert O. Becker.

Sources supporting Becker's research results: From the 440 papers (April 2012) referring to this book on Google Scholar:


  1. ^ 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.