The central figure in the creation of the bionic ear

BY HELEN TULLY

The NFSA congratulates Laureate Emeritus Professor Graeme Clark AC on his receipt of the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award.

Professor Clark is the central figure in the research and development of the bionic ear – a multiple-channel cochlear implant. His journey to develop an electronic solution to assist the hearing impaired through the study of auditory brain function has taken a lifetime of commitment.

Professor Clark initially found it difficult to get support for his idea and so turned to the media of the 20th and 21st Century – film and television – for help. Documentaries and telethons were produced, and interviews conducted to assist the advancement of this cause.

Above: Cochlear Implant Testing : First Audio Tests to Show Use of Cochlear Implant in Daily Life (1979). Footage supplied courtesy of Professor Graeme Clark and The University of Melbourne. NFSA title: 758047

The surgery and post auditory tests were also recorded on film and/or videotape. These productions, as well as the Clark family’s home movies were lodged by Professor Clark with the NFSA for safe keeping and research.

The NFSA also holds examples of television news coverage of the invention and various accolades received by Professor Clark and his team. This collection is a wonderful example of science and technology coming together to produce a groundbreaking outcome that has benefited more than 300,000 hearing impaired people around the world.

When TV curator, Helen Tully asked Professor Clark why he selected the NFSA as the home of this collection he said it was ‘because of the NFSA‘s track record in preservation and making collections available and I recognised that the collection had important historical and research value’.