In memoriam: Microwave ovens safer because of Allan Eckhaus
FFRF Member Allan Eckhaus died Feb. 6, 2022, at the age of 86 at his home in Chapel Hill, N.C. His wife of 62 years, Naomi, was at his side, as were his children.
Allan was born in the Bronx in August 1935 to Minnie and Harry Eckhaus. After high school, Allan had his choice of several prestig-ious universities to attend and chose Massachusetts Institute of Technology over Princeton. He obtained a degree in mechanical en-gineering.
He met his wife at a singles weekend at Tanglewood in Massachusetts. They were engaged three weeks later and married in three months. They began their life together in Great Neck, N.Y., moving to New Rochelle before they started their family.
As a loyal reader of Consumer Reports magazine, he noticed an ad for an engineer in their appliance division. Something told him that this was just the job for him, utilizing his skills as an engineer and as a writer. He was in charge of testing appliances.
One of his most satisfying accomplishments was his work on the then-new microwave ovens. He found that the door seals were not well designed and leaked radiation. Not having any data that evaluated a safe radiation level, the magazine declared the ovens “not recommended.” Manufacturers were up in arms and the federal government stepped in. He testified before the FDA, got his picture in The New York Times, and even had a conversation with Walter Cronkite. The microwave standards were subsequently changed.
As a result of that work, he was asked to serve on several FDA panels evaluating medical devices and often traveled to Washington for the meetings.
He thrived at Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, ultimately being promoted into management.
Allan retired from Consumers Union in 1996 and he and Naomi moved to Chapel Hill, N.C. There, he was able to give his creativity his full attention. He was an artist who created works of wonderful energy, using acrylic medium and often found objects to produce three-dimensional works.
And not to be forgotten is his enjoyment of working on antique cars. He owned a number of them, beginning with a 1932 Packard called “The Duchess.” As a suitable finale, the first Packard came with a trunk (external) that was falling apart. He carefully disassembled it and used the pieces as templates to create an exact replica. The pieces then got repurposed as a fabulous piece of art which, along with others, has its future waiting for it in a museum.