National Science Week at the ANU Library – remarkable Australians

16 August 2018

The ANU Library is celebrating this year’s National Science Week theme – Game Changers and Change Makers – by exploring some of the incredible resources in our collection that showcase amazing scientific achievement.

Today we are looking at the legacy of two Australian doctors in improving the lives of others, and advancing scientific knowledge.

40th anniversary of the first cochlear implant

In the 1970s, Australian otolaryngologist Professor Graeme Clark of Melbourne University invented the first ‘bionic ear’ or cochlear implant. This is a device implanted into the head to electronically stimulate the auditory nerve, which provides a sense of sound to a person with hearing loss.

Professor Clark’s career path was inspired by his father, who suffered from hearing loss and the resulting frustration and isolation. In the mid-1960s while working as an ear surgeon, Professor Clark began researching the possibility of an electronic, implantable hearing device. For over a decade, he dedicated his life to its research and development, meeting a lot of resistance in the medical community. Finally, in 1978 the first cochlear implant surgery took place. Thanks to the dedication of Professor Clark, the cochlear implant has brought hearing to hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, improving the lives of so many.

You can read more about cochlear implants in Professor Clark’s books Cochlear implants: fundamentals and applications, and Restoring the senses, or read about Clark online in Graeme Clark: The Man Who Invented the Bionic Ear.

50th anniversary of the death of Jean Macnamara

Dame Annie Jean Macnamara, an Australian medical doctor and scientist, was born on 1 April 1899 in Beechworth, Victoria. She studied at the University of Melbourne at age 17, graduating with exhibitions in surgery and anatomy. She became a resident medical officer at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and subsequently a resident at the Royal Children’s Hospital, before entering private practice with a special emphasis on poliomyelitis (polio).

Dr Macnamara was best known for her contributions to the Polimyelitis Committee of Victoria 1925-31. During the 1925 polio epidemic, she tested the use of immune serum in the treatment of patients at the pre-paralytic stage. Dr Macnamara also worked with Frank Macfarlane Burnet to discover that there was more than one type of polio virus, which has been acknowledged as an early step towards the development of the first polio vaccine.  She continued to treat victims of paralysis until her death on 13 October 1968.

You can read more about Dr Macnamara in The Dame: the life and times of Dame Jean Macnamara or about the effects of polio in A summer plague: polio and its survivors.