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Portrait of Professor Graeme Clark
, 2000

by Peter Wegner

oil on canvas

Graeme Clark AC (b. 1935) is Laureate Professor Emeritus of Otolaryngology at the University of Melbourne and the Director Emeritus of the Bionic Ear Institute. Clark made it possible for thousands of profoundly deaf people to hear when he launched the cochlear implant in 1978. The possibility of using an electrical device to stimulate the nerves inside the inner ear to produce hearing had been pursued sporadically by researchers since the 18th century. Clark has said that he discovered how to insert an electrode into the inner ear while studying shells on the beach; it took him and his team 12 years to develop the first device that could do this successfully. Nicknamed the 'Bionic Ear', it remains the world leader in its field. Research and refinement of the cochlear implant continue, and Clark has also developed other hearing devices, in pursuit of what has been called one of the major medical advances of our time. Clark was named Senior Australian of the Year in 2001. Amongst his many publications are Science and God (1979) and an autobiographical account of his research, Sounds from Silence (2000).

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the family of Professor Graeme Clark 2001
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2001.40