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Wednesday, December 2, 1964
The Dr. William S. Middleton Award, the Veterans Administration’s highest honor for medical research, was today presented to Dr. Robert O. Becker of Syracuse, N.Y., for his work on the identification of electrical control systems in living organisms including man.
The presentation was made at the annual VA national research conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. The conference concludes a 3-day program tomorrow.
A certificate accompanying the award states, “As clinicians, we turn to research for the advancement of our practice.” Dr. Becker’s name has been added to a plaque which will be displayed during the coming year at the Syracuse VA Hospital, where he is an orthopedic surgeon. The award was established in 1960 by colleagues of Dr. Middleton, who has since retired as Chief Medical Director of the VA’s Department of Medicine and Surgery.
The general thesis of Dr. Becker’s research work is that many biological activities, including (1) growth and repair of injured parts, (2) biological cycles and sleep and (3) the general level of nervous system activity — are controlled by previously unrecognized electronic control systems. The basic elements of these control systems, according to Dr. Becker and his fellow researchers at Syracuse, are various types of semiconducting properties within the different tissues of the body. These are believed similar to those of radio transistors and require only minute quantities of electrical current to make them work.
Dr. Becker, at the 1960 VA Research Conference, described the semiconduction system in the nerve fibers that controls the phenomenon of the regeneration of lost limbs in salamanders. Subsequent work has indicated that similar regeneration may control wound healing in all animals and humans.
There is some evidence that abnormal growths, such as cancer, may be related to the loss of this electronic control system.
Dr. Becker, who was certified by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery in 1959, was born May 31, 1923 at River Edge, New Jersey. He received his B.S. degree from the New York University College of Medicine in 1948. He served two years with the Army Medical Corps.
He was appointed Chief of the Orthopedic Section, Syracuse VA Hospital in 1956. He is also an Associate Professor of Surgery at the State University of New York, Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse.
November 30, 1964.