KINGSTON - Charles Polk, 80, of Spring Hill Road, an Emeritus Professor of Electrical Engineering at the university of Rhode Island, and distinguished scientific researcher, died Nov. 6, at Rhode Island Hospital after a brief illness.
Prof. Polk, Chairman of the Electrical Engineering Department from 1959-1979, specialized in the controversial subject of assessing the health effects from exposure to power line and other electric and magnetic fields. He served as President and Vice-president of the Bioelectromagnetics Society from 1987-89. He was the chairman of the Power Frequency Subcommittee of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Committee on Man and Radiation, and was a frequent speaker at international scientific gatherings and expert witness on the biological effects of power lines.
Prof. Polk held several patents, co-edited several books and authored over 80 scientific articles and abstracts on electromagnetic wave propagation, antennas, and electromagnetic noise of natural origin and interaction of electromagnetic fields with living systems.
Prof. Polk received a degree in French Literature from the University of Paris, Sorbonne, France and received his bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from Washington University, St. Louis, MO. He received his master's degree in Physics and doctorate in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.
He was Visiting Professor at Stanford University, CA and at the University of Wisconsin. From 1975-77 he was Head of Electrical Sciences and Analysis and Acting Director of the Engineering Division of the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C.
Prof. Polk received many honors. Most recently, he was named as a Distinguished National Lecturer with the IEEE-Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Other awards included the Superior Accomplishment Award from the National Science Foundation in 1977 and the URI Aurelio Lucci Award for Faculty Excellence in 1989. He was elected Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering "for contributions to understanding earth-ionosphere cavity resonances and for leadership in engineering education."
He was the husband of Dorothy Rose Lemp of St. Louis, Mo. They were married 54 years. He lived in Kingston for 41 years. Born in Vienna, Austria, Prof. Polk came to the U.S. in 1940. He served in the US Army from 1943 -1946 and attained the rank of Technical Sargent.
Besides his wife, he leaves two sons, Dean F. Polk of Wenonah, New Jersey and Gerald W. Polk of Atlanta, GA; and two grandchildren. He was the brother of the late Fred Polk of New York.
A memorial service will be held Saturday Nov. 18 at Westminster Unitarian Universalist Church, 119 Kenyon Ave., East Greenwich at 1p.m.
In lieu of flowers the family request that donations be sent to the
Center for the Victims of Torture,
717 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455.
With great sadness I mourn the loss of Charles Polk. The man who turned to Bioelectromagnetics at the "retirement" age of 65 was, for me, a hero and role model. I remember the first time I heard him speak at my first Bioelectromagnetics Society meeting. I remember how, the first time I introduced myself and sat at his table at a BEMS dinner, he treated me with respect, interest and patience. He encouraged my work and, if it were not for his many positive and helpful grant reviews and manuscript reviews, I would not have been as successful in peer reviewed funding. He was a man of incredible vigour, I remember how, at 80 years of age, he came to our centre as an external examiner for Dr Jeff Carson's Ph.D. defence and on that same visit gave an inspiring lecture. Charles Polk was a man dedicated to science, strong enough to put aside issues of ego and the negative aspects of competition. Thank you Charles Polk, I miss you greatly.
Frank Prato, London Ontario Canada, Nov 12, 2000
It was my great fortune to know, to work with, and to learn from Charles Polk for almost 15 years. Then, as now, I remain in awe of the scale of his humanity, intelligence, and his open-minded quest for truth. The latter is perhaps the most important facet of a great scientist. Charles had one of the most open, yet rigorous, minds regarding science I have known, and he continually impressed me every time I discussed research with him. He was not trained in biology but he was constantly interested in understanding biological studies - he truly appreciated the important contributions that can be made by engineering, physics, and biology, yet he scrupulously did not let any innate prejudices sometimes associated with these different fields of science to interfere with his quest for truth. Over the years Charles approached me countless times to discuss biological experiments in bioelectromagnetics. He was a source of great wisdom to many in the scientific community. I am not aware of any other scientist of his stature who displayed such a pure search for truth or possessed such an evenness and objectivity in evaluating interdisciplinary research. He was a wonderful man and great scientist, and he touched many of us over the years. Charles will be dearly missed.
Robert Liburdy, Nov 17, 2000