Herman SchwanSoon after World War II, Herman Schwan immigrated to the United States as part of Project Paperclip, a U.S. government program to recruit scientists who had worked in Germany during the war. Schwan’s expertise was in engineering, particularly in microwaves and their effects on living systems. Almost immediately after he arrived in the U.S. he was appointed to the faculty of engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, and he began publishing equations he claimed showed that EMFs could cook tissue only if they were above a certain strength level, and that lower levels were safe. When I was in graduate school at Penn I heard him lecture about EMFs, and I wondered how he could be so sure of himself, because I thought that safety levels were empirical facts rather than deductions from equations. That was the earliest time in my career that I can now remember being interested in EMFs.

About fifteen years later I was presented with an opportunity to help cross-examine Schwan under oath. I asked him what he did in Germany during the war, but he answered vaguely and tried to create the impression he was only a student with no serious responsibilities. But that couldn’t have been true because he had gotten his Ph.D. in 1940 and had an important job at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, which conducted research on medical physics during the war. Besides, access to his advanced knowledge was the reason he was brought here. Project Paperclip recruited only established scientists like Werner von Braun and Dietrich Beischer, not students. I pressed the line of cross-examination because I thought that knowledge Schwan had gained at the Institute could explain why he was so confident about his calculations regarding what EMF levels were needed to cook live tissue, but he escaped answering the question because the hearing examiner cut off my line of questioning (see Going Somewhere).

Schwan never again testified in court, and was therefore never compelled to explain the EMF heating experiments he did in Germany during the war. In 2007 he took his secrets to the grave.

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