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  • Sounds of computer game

  • DX 22's over there. Yeah.

  • (Off screen) Sam, get off that silly Xbox please. Isaac, get ready for school. Come on boys.

  • Yes, Mum.

  • Ninety-nine per cent of the scientific community said that it was not possible, and I was seen as

  • somewhere between a dreamer and a clown.

  • Music

  • Not far from Sydney is the picturesque country town of Camden. It was here that Professor Graeme Clark

  • began what was to be a lifelong quest, one which transformed people's lives

  • and opened up new frontiers in Science and Medicine

  • His vision was sound - sound for the millions of people who could not hear

  • The development of the Bionic Ear or Cochlear Implant would not be an easy journey, and demanded courage,

  • determination and an insatiable thirst for knowledge - traits that were apparent very early in Graeme's life.

  • I don't remember too much after I was born till I was about three or four, but my parents told me

  • I was a bit of a handful. They told me that I used to wake up early and I've got a photo of them

  • taking me for a walk - poor parents!

  • I had a lot of energy and that attitude continued as I grew up till my sister came along, and then my brother

  • Graeme was three years older than I was and he was always the big brother and there was always

  • a lot of activity going on around Graeme.

  • As I grew up I was always saying to Mother,

  • 'What can I do now?' And she'd find things for me to do

  • and then I'd say the same again. And so she did have a hyperactive child on her hands.

  • I think that's what I remember most, that I actually didn't walk till I was two because I didn't need to...

  • he provided all the energy in the family!

  • That energy found many outlets. Growing up in this small country town, the young Graeme was free

  • to wander, riding his bike for miles, exploring the countryside he loved.

  • There was also sport, and cubs, and getting up to tricks with the kids next door.

  • And of course they did a famous trick with me where they dug a great big hole in the ground and put mud in it,

  • and then thought that I wouldn't know what was going on, camouflaged it. No, I wouldn't know, even though I was

  • watching it for days! And because I wouldn't walk over it, they actually pulled me over it, and what a surprise I had!

  • As a young boy, Graeme read widely, and was inspired by the story of Louis Pasteur and also Madame Curie.

  • By the age of ten he'd already decided he'd be an ear doctor, to help deaf people like his father, Colin,

  • pharmacist and optometrist for the local community.

  • In the pharmacy I would love to experiment with all the pharmaceuticals that he had, make smells,

  • surprise people with the various potions that I had been able to create, and worked with the chemist's material

  • and was known by the shop girls as 'the bunsen burner boy', who had come home from school. I learned too

  • at an early age that people did want certain things like contraceptives and others, and they wouldn't always

  • speak it in a loud enough voice for Dad, so he'd ask them to speak up loudly, so all the people in the shop

  • could hear, and they were embarrassed. And I tried to save him the embarrassment by going and saying,

  • 'I'll get that for you', and knew where these things were. But I don't think I could have wished for a better

  • mother or father. They both had different talents, they both interacted in different ways.

  • My mother was a creative person. She was a very gifted pianist, could sight-read at a young age,

  • and was an artist. She was in the Sydney Art Group and had scholarships.

  • And so I inherited some of those artistic, creative talents I think from Mum. My father was much more

  • the common sense practical person, ran a very good pharmacy.

  • He was always very wise, not that my mother wasn't. She had a more intuitive wisdom. My father had a more

  • practical wisdom. But combined they were great parents, and I think we as children realised that.

  • Yes, I can remember my father saying, 'Never try and cheat the taxman', so I don't! Are you listening?

  • Yes, he always brought us up to do the honorable thing and he certainly treated us all well as his family, yes.

  • He was a good man, but so was Mum, and I remember Dad saying, when Mum died, 'Your mother was...

  • you would describe your mother as pure in heart', and I thought that was a really lovely way of expressing

  • what he felt about her, but he was equally, totally honorable, yes. No, they were great people.

  • My brother was good because he was ten years younger than me,

  • and so in a way I brought him up almost like a father.

  • He sadly died some years ago, but it was really lovely having both a brother and a sister.

  • Bruce was very smart. He was very passionate about sport.

  • He did very well at school when he came back to the local high school. He was rather a home body, Bruce.

  • But Bruce had an amazing compassion

  • and he had the ability to care for everybody.

  • He was a really beautiful person.

  • In 1946, when Graeme finished primary school, Camden did not yet have a high school.

  • So it was off to Sydney Boys' High, spending weeknights with his grandparents

  • and then home for the weekend, a one hundred and thirty kilometre round trip.

  • The following year he began boarding at Scots College, where his sporting ability was soon noticed.

  • School terms were busy with rugby, cricket, cadets and study,

  • and Graeme made the most of his holidays back in Camden.

  • For me, to be in a country town, and free, with parents who were guiding me to do different things

  • was a really wonderful opportunity.

  • Graeme used his father's glass blowing equipment to make his own testing materials.

  • He set up a laboratory at home and experimented with plants, developing his dissection skills

  • whenever and wherever possible.

  • Yes, I did some slightly unusual things, but they weren't illegal I might say at that stage.

  • I did simple experiments in my mother's laundry to try to look at the biological side of things.

  • And so when I went to Medicine it was exciting. To learn about sexual and asexual reproduction in flowers

  • turned me on! And then we did all sorts of things, dissect stingrays and so on. Then of course to do

  • Anatomy in our second year and dissect the human body, that was very stimulating.

  • At the University of Sydney Graeme was already heading down what almost seemed a predestined path.

  • My real love was Function and Physiology.

  • I was starting to really get to love that, and in my third year of Medicine I was so taken with it

  • that I took my textbook away on holidays and finished up with a First Class Honours result

  • and an offer of doing research.

  • That same year Graeme discovered another love.

  • Well, I was fifteen, and I was at MLC Burwood with Robin, his sister, and she asked me to go up

  • for the weekend to Camden where they lived in the country. And so I went, and another friend.

  • They got off the train at Campbelltown and two pretty MLC girls were on the train, and I took notice.

  • And I remember Graeme, walking along the platform at Campbelltown Station, in a brown sports coat,

  • and slightly wavy hair, and a nice smile on his face.

  • Then I went in the afternoon, to give them a little bit of entertainment, took them out to the local golf club.

  • And that was quite a bit of fun!

  • I remember him saying what a terrible shot he'd done and I thought it was pretty good.

  • They had never played golf and I thought I was pretty good. And I gave them some instruction, and I thought

  • it was really quite nice being able to hold Margaret from behind and show her how to play these shots.

  • Yes, that night, I remember they had a clock, the church clock, it struck every quarter of an hour,

  • and I had trouble getting to sleep. Maybe it was excitement too. I don't know!

  • But it was early days. They were both young, and needed to focus on their studies.

  • Graeme began his clinical training, working with patients in the wards. He loved this part of it so much

  • that he spent much of his holidays gaining experience with Dr Crookson, a local doctor and surgeon.

  • He was the epitome of the old-fashioned doctor who did everything. And he took me under his wing. He'd let me

  • go and watch and maybe even do a little assisting when he did gastrectomies, taking out the stomach of some

  • of the locals, and all sorts of operations, let me take blood from some of his patients.

  • Graeme's passion for all aspects of medicine saw him top his final year at Sydney University.

  • Over the next few years Graeme crammed in a range of surgical experience,

  • with residencies at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred and Royal North Shore hospitals.

  • He was also seconded to the busy casualty department of the Wollongong Hospital.

  • Here, Doctor Clark operated on patient, Clark, with anaesthetist, Clark, in the Clark Theatre.

  • Coincidences seemed to come Graeme's way. At RPA he was appointed Registrar of Brain Surgery,

  • and then of Ear, Nose and Throat, both areas intrinsic to his future work.

  • He had also, by chance, met up again with Margaret Burtenshaw,

  • whom he had most definitely not forgotten over the last five years.

  • We got together again when I was over the problems of working like a slave as a resident

  • at Prince Alfred and the North Shore hospitals.

  • And then I met Margaret again after our youthful friendship and knew that she was the right one.

  • She was the nicest girl I'd ever met, and still is.

  • I went round to visit Robin who was in a little flat in my suburb. She had done Pharmacy and I hadn't seen her

  • for a while and I thought, 'Oh I'll go around and see Robin'. And when I was there Graeme visited

  • and well, from that time, you know, we found we had a lot to talk about.

  • And it wasn't, yes, that was November of a year, and we were engaged by the next April.

  • On the 27th of December 1961, Graeme and Margaret married.

  • Three days later they were on their way to the U.K.

  • We went to England, as most did those days, to get post-graduate training

  • in surgery at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital and the

  • Royal College of Surgeons of England and Edinburgh. So I'm a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons

  • in General Surgery and then also in Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery.

  • Returning to Australia, Graeme and Margaret were now expecting their first child, and needed a stable income.

  • So my father had a friend who was a pharmacist and then an ENT specialist here in Melbourne,

  • and he was looking for a partner, so I came to Melbourne as the surgeon

  • in the partnership and earned my living that way. And that's how we got back to Melbourne

  • and I was in that private practice for three years.

  • Graeme was frustrated at being unable to help profoundly deaf patients, and believed there had to be a way.

  • And I took out the latest paper to read to be up to date, and saw this article by Blair Simmons where he'd

  • actually stimulated one profoundly deaf person who had some hearing sensations but couldn't get

  • speech understanding. And I said there and then - it lit the fire in the belly, a bushfire - that this is really what

  • I wanted to do. I wanted to be, for better or worse, I wanted to help people who were profoundly deaf.

  • For some reason that was what I'd been sort of working towards, unbeknownst to me sometimes,

  • and that's where I really found a fit.

  • So it was arranged. Graeme was offered a research position at Sydney University.

  • The family made the move late in 1966 -' Graeme, Margaret, and their two daughters,

  • Sonya, not quite three, and Cecily, just sixteen months old.

  • When I left private practice to go to Sydney University to do what I believed to be important basic

  • neuro-physiological research, there was no likelihood necessarily that it would work, because

  • ninety-nine per cent of the people - the scientists of the day - said it would not work.

  • And I was seen as foolish and other things. I was called 'that clown Clark', and there were comments made

  • that it would be as successful as putting a light-bulb in the backside and turning the electricity on so

  • that was the attitude, and so I left in that climate to give up my partnership and become a poor PhD student.

  • Yes, we had a car that packed up when we were thinking we'd take a trip back to Melbourne and visit

  • people in Melbourne, and it stopped, and never went again. So we left it at Gundagai tip.

  • We didn't have money to buy another second-hand car so I had to travel everywhere by public transport

  • or good will of friends. But it turned out to be a blessing because there's nothing like standing at a bus stop,

  • waiting for a bus, to think. And I learned at the University of Sydney to think.

  • And that's the difference between being a surgeon and a research scientist.

  • You have lots of mental challenges that you've got to think through.

  • The trick with cochlear implants is not getting people to hear. That's actually easy. You can put a wire

  • in the ear and you can send a current down it and people will hear something. The trick is getting them to hear

  • something that's useful to them, and what's useful is hearing speech in particular, for communication,

  • and making that as clear as possible.

  • Graeme's thesis focussed on exactly this problem - how to enable speech recognition

  • through electrical stimulation? He <