Life On The Job


Professor Graeme Milbourne Clark (16 August 1935 - ) Inventor of the Cochlear Implant or "Bionic Ear"

AO MB MS PhD FRCS FRACS 

Professor Graeme Clark with child who has implant 

Introduction

Graeme Milbourne Clark was born on 16 August 1935 in the New South Wales country town of Camden. His father, Colin, the local pharmacist, had suffered from deafness some years before Graeme was born. As a young boy, Graeme assisted his father to dispense medicines and serving at the front counter. His early experience with a severely deaf father was the catalyst for his effort to do something about assisting people suffering from deafness. His first primary school teacher, Mrs Pat Hider (now Colman) recalls Graeme telling her that when he grew up he wanted “to fix ears”. (Source: The Graeme Clark Oration)

Education

He finished his secondary education as a boarder at The Scots College in Sydney in 1951.

Scots College

Clark then went to the University of Sydney graduating with honours from an MB, BS degree (1957). Fresh from medical school, Dr Clark worked at the Royal Prince Alfred and North Shore Hospitals as a resident medical officer (1958-59) before specialising as a registrar in neurosurgery and otolaryngology (1961).

Clark then left our sunny shores for England, where he worked as senior house surgeon at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital (1962) and senior registrar in otolaryngology at the Bristol General Hospital (1963). Clark returned to Australia and the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital as assistant and then senior ENT surgeon (1963-66). He held this position concurrently with ENT surgery positions at the Alfred, Austin and Repatriation General Hospitals (1964-66).

Not satisfied with the treatments available to profoundly deaf patients, Clark returned to the University of Sydney to embark on further study. He completed both an MS (1968) and a PhD degree (1969). During his studies, Clark also lectured in physiology at the University of Sydney and remained as senior honorary ENT surgeon at the Eye and Ear Hospital, Melbourne. (Source: Australian Academy of Science)

Experience and Opportunities

In 1969, Clark accepted the William Gibson chair of otolaryngology at the University of Melbourne (1970-2004).

Professor Clark
1970

Whilst professor of otolaryngology, Clark established the Cochlear Implant Clinic at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and was the surgeon in charge (1985-2004).

Bionic ear stamp
1987 - The Bionic Ear Stamp released by the Australian Postal Service.

In 1984 Clark founded the Bionic Ear Institute (now Bionics Institute) and acted as its director until 2005. Clark was made laureate professor at the University of Melbourne in 1999, professor at the University of Wollongong in 2003 and distinguished professor at La Trobe University in 2008. He is now distinguished researcher at the ICT for Life Sciences. (Source: Australian Academy of Science)

Did You Know?

Professor Graeme Clark is responsible for the pioneering research and development of the Bionic Ear – a multiple-channel Cochlear Implant. The Cochlear Implant has brought hearing and speech understanding to over 200,000 people with a severe-to-profound hearing loss, in more than 80 countries.

Professor Graeme Clark

Professor Graeme Clark was the first person to develop the multi-channel cochlear implant and to have successfully performed the world’s first implant procedure on Mr Rod Saunders in August 1978, at Melbourne’s Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital.
(Source: Graeme Clark Oration)

Professor Clark’s achievements have been recognised in some of the major scientific prizes he has received.

He is a rarity among scientists, having received three major scientific awards in a separate discipline of science.

The Zulch Prize in 2007 was awarded by the Max Planck Society, Germany, for exceptional achievement in basic neurological research; the Otto Schmitt Award was awarded in 2009 by the International Federation for Medical and Biological Engineering for exceptional contributions to the advancement of the field of medical and biological engineering, and in November 2010 The Lister Medal by the Royal College of Surgeons of England in recognition of contributions to surgical science. (Source: Graeme Clark Oration)


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