A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

Bill Guy, “Father” of SARs, Dies at 85

April 24, 2014

Arthur W. Guy, known to all as Bill, died on April 20th at the age of 85. Guy will be best remembered as the leading proponent of the use of specific absorption rates (SARs) as a way of measuring the radiation dose associated with RF/MW exposure.

Guy received a doctorate in electrical engineering in 1966 from the University of Washington, Seattle, and then joined the UW faculty where he remained until his retirement in 1991. He stayed active as a consultant over the next 15 years. He served as a prominent science advisor to the cell phone industry’s research program, known as WTR, run by George Carlo in the mid-1990s.

Guy founded the Bioelectromagnetics Research Lab at UW in 1974, with the assistance of Jim Lin. (Today, Lin serves as the editor-in-chief of the journal Bioelectromagnetics.) During the early 1980’s, Guy ran one of the first studies to investigate the effects of lifetime microwave exposures on rats. The Guy study, as it became known, was prompted by public concerns over a powerful radar —called PAVE PAWS— being built by the U.S. Air Force on Cape Cod. The study was controversial from the start, and became even more so when, to many people’s surprise, it showed that microwaves could promote cancer (see our report from 1984).

Guy played a decisive role in the development of RF exposure standards. He was the chair of the panel that wrote the 1982 ANSI standard, the first for which numerical limits were set as a function of the SAR and thereby changed with frequency. (This is the origin of the well shape in the graphic of RF exposure limits.) He served on a number of panels of the NCRP, including its first to recognize SARs (Report No.67). He later chaired the NCRP committee that wrote the influential report on RF effects and exposure limits (Report No.86). An effort to revise it a decade later, under the direction of Lin, was sidelined by lack of funding.

Henry Lai, who had joined the lab in the early 1980s, kept it going for a time after Guy retired, but it faded away as research money dried up.

C-K. Chou, one of Guy’s doctoral students at UW and later a post-doc in his lab, became the director of Motorola’s RF Dosimetry Lab in Plantation, FL and was later named Chief EME Scientist at Motorola Solutions. (Chou retired from the company last year.) “He taught me to speak the way it is, because that was what he did,” Chou told Microwave News. “I learned from him ‘experiments must be repeatable and explainable’.”

A memorial service will be held in Seattle on May 9th.