Eleanor R. Adair

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Eleanor Reed Adair
Eleanor Campbell Reed

(1926-11-11)November 11, 1926
Arlington, Massachusetts
DiedApril 20, 2013(2013-04-20) (aged 86)
Hamden, Connecticut
Alma mater Mount Holyoke College (B.A.)
University of Wisconsin-Madison (Ph.D.)
Known forProponent of microwave radiation safety.
Spouse(s) Robert K. Adair
Scientific career
InstitutionsJohn B. Pierce Laboratory
Air Force Research Laboratory

Eleanor Reed Adair (November 11, 1926 – April 20, 2013) [1] was an American physiologist who studied the effects of electromagnetic radiation on humans. She is best known for performing the first human studies demonstrating the safety of microwave radiation.

Physiology science of the function of living systems

Physiology is the scientific study of the functions and mechanisms which work within a living system.

At sufficiently high flux levels, various bands of electromagnetic radiation have been found to cause deleterious health effects in people. Electromagnetic radiation can be classified into two types: ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation, based on the capability of a single photon with more than 10 eV energy to ionize oxygen or break chemical bonds. Extreme ultraviolet and higher frequencies, such as X-rays or gamma rays are ionizing, and these pose their own special hazards: see radiation and radiation poisoning. The last quarter of the twentieth century saw a dramatic increase in the number of devices emitting non-ionizing radiation in all segments of society, which resulted in an elevation of health concerns by researchers and clinicians, and an associated interest in government regulation for safety purposes. In the United States, this has resulted in legislation such as the Radiation Control for Health and Safety Act of 1968 and the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. By far the most common health hazard of radiation is sunburn, which causes over one million new skin cancers annually in United States.

Microwave form of electromagnetic radiation

Microwaves are a form of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths ranging from about one meter to one millimeter; with frequencies between 300 MHz (1 m) and 300 GHz (1 mm). Different sources define different frequency ranges as microwaves; the above broad definition includes both UHF and EHF bands. A more common definition in radio engineering is the range between 1 and 100 GHz. In all cases, microwaves include the entire SHF band at minimum. Frequencies in the microwave range are often referred to by their IEEE radar band designations: S, C, X, Ku, K, or Ka band, or by similar NATO or EU designations.


Personal life

Adair was born on November 28, 1926, in Arlington, Massachusetts. Adair received her undergraduate degree from Mount Holyoke College in 1948. Adair married Robert K. Adair, a physicist, in 1952. In 1955, she obtained her doctorate from the University of WisconsinMadison. She received her Ph.D. in a combination of two fields: sensory psychology and physics. [2]

Arlington, Massachusetts Town in Massachusetts, United States

Arlington is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, six miles (10 km) northwest of Boston. The population was 42,844 at the 2010 census.

Mount Holyoke College Liberal arts college in Massachusetts, US

Mount Holyoke College is a private women's liberal arts college in South Hadley, Massachusetts. It is the oldest institution within the Seven Sisters schools, an alliance of elite East Coast liberal arts colleges that arose as a female equivalent to the then male dominated Ivy League. Mount Holyoke also served as a model for other women's colleges and is part of the region's Five College Consortium, along with Amherst College, Smith College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Robert Kemp Adair is an American physicist. He is Sterling Professor Emeritus of physics at Yale University.

Scientific work

Starting in the 1970s, Adair conducted physiology studies as a fellow at the John B. Pierce Laboratory in New Haven to learn how humans and animals react to heat. This work led her to focus on the controversial area of microwave s and their effect on human health. [1] Experimenting first on squirrel monkeys and then on human volunteers, she concluded that microwave radiation from microwave ovens, cells phones, and power lines is harmless to humans and animals. [2]

John Bartlett Pierce was an American industrialist who founded the Pierce Steam Heating Company, a forerunner of the American Radiator Company.

Squirrel monkey A genus of mammals belonging to the capuchin and squirrel monkey family of primates

Squirrel monkeys are New World monkeys of the genus Saimiri. Saimiri is the only genus in the subfamily Saimirinae. The name of the genus is of Tupi origin and was also used as an English name by early researchers.

In 1996, she joined the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Brooks Air Force Base, Texas, as a senior scientist studying electromagnetic radiation effects. [3]

Air Force Research Laboratory scientific research organization operated by the United States Air Force

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is a scientific research organization operated by the United States Air Force Materiel Command dedicated to leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable aerospace warfighting technologies, planning and executing the Air Force science and technology program, and providing warfighting capabilities to United States air, space, and cyberspace forces. It controls the entire Air Force science and technology research budget which was $2.4 billion in 2006.

Awards and honors

Adair was a fellow of several scientific societies, including the Bioelectromagnetics Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). She served as the secretary-treasure of the former. Adair chaired several IEEE committees, including the Committee on Man and Radiation and the Standards Coordinating Committee. She was a member of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement Committee. [3]

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers scholarly society, publisher and standards organization, headquartered in US

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is a professional association with its corporate office in New York City and its operations center in Piscataway, New Jersey. It was formed in 1963 from the amalgamation of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers and the Institute of Radio Engineers.

In 2007 she was awarded the D'Arsonval Award for Bioelectromagnetics by the Bioelectromagnetics Society. [4]


Adair passed away in 2013 due to complications from a stroke. [1]

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  1. 1 2 3 Yardley, William (5 May 2013). "Eleanor R. Adair, Microwave Proponent, Dies at 86". New York Times . Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  2. 1 2 Kolata, Gina (16 January 2001). "A Conversation With: Eleanor R. Adair; Tuning in to the microwave frequency". New York Times . Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  3. 1 2 Adair, Eleanor (2001). "Electromagnetic Fields: Think Benefits, Not Hazards" (PDF).
  4. Greenbaum, Ben. Eleanor R. Adair: 2007 D'Arsonval Award recipient. BioElectroMagnetics, Volume 29, Issue 8, page 585, December 2008