On January 7, 2015 the National Academy of Engineering announced that the 2015 Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize would be awarded to Blake S. Wilson, Grame M. Clark, Erwin Hochmair, Ingebord J. Hochmair-Desoyer, and Michael M. Merzench “for engineering cochlear implants that enable the deaf to hear.” The $500,000 biennial award recognizes a bioengineering achievement that significantly improves the human condition.1
“This year’s Russ Prize recipients personify how engineering transforms the health and happiness of people across the globe,” said NAE President C.D. Mote Jr. “The creators of the cochlear implant have improved remarkably the lives of people everywhere who are hearing impaired.”1
Dr. Blake S. Wilson is the Co-Director (with Debara L. Tucci, MD) of the Duke Hearing Center and is an adjunct professor in each of two departments at Duke, Surgery and Electrical Engineering. He also is the chief strategy advisor for MED-EL Medical Electronics GmbH of Innsbruck, Austria, and a Senior Fellow Emeritus of the Research Triangle Institute (RTI) in the Research Triangle Park, NC, USA. He has been involved in the development of the cochlear implant (CI) for the past three decades, and is the inventor of many of the signal processing strategies used with the present-day devices.
Dr. Wilson and the teams he has directed have been recognized with a high number of awards and honors, most notably the 1996 Discover Award for Technological Innovation; the American Otological Society’s President’s Citation in 1997 for Major contributions to the restoration of hearing in profoundly deaf persons (to the RTI team); the 2007 Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke; the Neel Distinguished Research Lectureship at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery; and recently the Lasker-De-Bakey Clinical Medicine Research Award in 2013.
Dr. Wilson co-authored Plural Publishing book Better Hearing with Cochlear Implants which provides a comprehensive account of a decades-long research effort to improve cochlear implants (CIs). The research was conducted primarily at the Research Triangle Institute (RTI) in North Carolina, USA, and the results provided key pillars in the foundation for the present-day devices.
1. National Academy of Engineering. Inventors of Cochlear Implant Win 2015 Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize [Press Release]. Retrieved from http://www.nae.edu/Projects/MediaRoom/20095/107830/129146.aspx