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Blake Wilson Biography

Prof. Wilson was initially trained as an electrical engineer but also became a leading scientist in the fields of hearing research, remediation of hearing loss, and neural prostheses in the ensuing years. He has a BSEE from Duke University and higher doctorates in science and engineering from the University of Warwick and the University of Technology, Sydney, respectively. In addition, he is a Life Fellow of the IEEE and is the recipient of honorary doctorates from Uppsala University and the University of Salamanca. He is a Distinguished Alumnus of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke, and has led or co-led many multidisciplinary efforts during the past three decades.

He began his career at the Research Triangle Institute (RTI) in the Research Triangle Park (RTP), NC, USA. His positions there included Research Engineer (1974-78); Senior Research Engineer (1978-83); Head of the Neuroscience Program (1983-94); Director of the Center for Auditory Prosthesis Research (1994-2002); and Senior Fellow (2002-2007). He with others created the Neuroscience Program and the Center for Auditory Prosthesis Research. RTI is a not-for-profit research institute with 3700 employees worldwide. Wilson retired from the RTI in 2007 following 33 years of continuous service there. Much of the work he directed while at the RTI is described in the book by him and Michael F. Dorman, “Better Hearing with Cochlear Implants: Studies at the Research Triangle Institute” (Plural, 2012; a review of the book is presented in the journal Ear and Hearing, vol. 35, page 137.)

After retiring from the RTI, Wilson continued his positions as an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Surgery at Duke and as the overseas expert for a large project at five centers in Europe funded by the European Commission and aimed at the remediation of hearing loss. In addition, he accepted new positions in 2007 and later. His current positions are:

  • Co-Director (with Co-Director Debara L. Tucci, M.D.) of the Duke Hearing Center
  • Adjunct Professor in the Departments of Surgery, Biomedical Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke
  • Scholar in Residence for the Pratt School and member of the affiliated faculties for the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences and the Duke Global Health Institute
  • Honorary Professor at the University of Warwick in the UK
  • Chief Strategy Advisor for MED-EL Medical Electronics GmbH, in Innsbruck, Austria
  • Director of the MED-EL Basic Research Laboratory in the RTP

Prof. Wilson is the inventor of many of the speech processing strategies used with the present-day cochlear implants, including the continuous interleaved sampling (CIS), spectral peak picking (e.g., “n-of-m”), and virtual channel strategies, among others. One of his papers, in the journal Nature, is the most highly cited publication in the field of cochlear implants. He has served as the Principal Investigator for 26 projects, including 13 projects for the USA’s National Institutes of Health. In addition, he helped to create the Duke Cochlear Implant Program in 1984 and the Duke Hearing Center in 2008.

Alone or with colleagues, Wilson has received a high number of prestigious awards, including but not limited to the 2013 Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award, “for the development of the modern cochlear implant” (to Wilson and two others); the American Otological Society President’s Citation in 1997, “for major contributions to the restoration of hearing in profoundly deaf persons” (to Wilson and three others); and the 1996 Discover Award for Technological Innovation in the category of “sound” (to Wilson). In addition, Wilson has been the Guest of Honor (GOH) at 13 international and three national conferences to date. He has given GOH, keynote, or other invited talks at more than 180 conferences, and he has given seven named lectures, including the Neel Distinguished Research Lecture, a Hopkins Medicine Distinguished Speaker Lecture, and one of the Flexner Discovery Lectures at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.