Congratulations to Professor Graeme Clark who has won the 2015 Russ Prize. The award is presented every two years by the Washington-based National Academy of Engineering and was shared with four other cochlear implant developers from the US and Austria.
Professor Clark, in the mid-1960s, while working as an ear surgeon in Melbourne, came upon a scientific paper by Blair Simmons in the US. It described how a profoundly deaf person received hearing sensations through electrical stimulation, but no speech understanding. The seed was planted, and in 1967 he began researching the possibility of an electronic, implantable hearing device: a cochlear implant. The first cochlear implant was installed 1978.
He is also considered a pioneer of Australian innovation after luring the private and government funding needed to fully develop his invention. Professor Clark has been quoted as saying:
“In spite of the problems and criticisms, I just had to go on. A cochlear implant was their only hope of ever hearing.”
Since the first Cochlear implant in 1970, over 320,000 hearing impaired and deaf people worldwide have benefited.