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Pioneer Turned A Deaf Ear

February 6, 2007


Special: bionic ear inventor gGaeme Clark with recipients Ellen and Nicole O’Connell.

LUCKILY for thousands of deaf people, Graeme Clark ignored doomsayers warning that a bionic ear implant “was not possible in the foreseeable future”.

He succeeded, and Prof Clark ranks among the great inventors celebrated today in The Greatest magazine series.

He joins the likes of Orville and Wilbur Wright, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison and Alfred Nobel.

The Greatest is a collection of 14 glossy magazines free in your Herald Sun and Sunday Herald Sun, featuring the people who inspire us, astound us and change our lives.

Prof Clark’s pioneering 1960s Melbourne University research led to a prototype bionic ear in 1978, and an approved cochlear implant in 1985.

Today more than 50,000 profoundly deaf people in 120 countries can hear thanks to him.

“To enable deaf children to communicate naturally in society with hearing people has been a special privilege that I hardly thought possible when I started my research 40 years ago,” Prof Clark, 71, said.

His latest project is a bid to create spinal cord implants to help paraplegics walk again.

As a child Prof Clark admired another medical pioneer, Louis Pasteur.

“(His) discoveries in 1862 laid the foundation for the germ theory of infection and among other discoveries he removed the fear of rabies through immunisation,” he said.

“Another hero was Ignaz Semmelweis from Vienna who, in 1847, showed that death of women from childbirth fever could be prevented simply by washing hands in an antiseptic solution between examinations.

“Yet he was ridiculed by his conservative professors and died a broken man.”

Pasteur and Semmelweis both feature in tomorrow’s The Greatest Medical Minds magazine.

Prof Clark said he is honoured to rank alongside his heroes, and said a great inventor encouraged others to share in the good ideas “and to do so with enthusiasm”.

You can also get an album for your The Greatest collection.

Simply cut out the token on Page 2 and take it to your local newsagent, or buy one when you get the paper.