The 2002 Graham Fraser Memorial Lecture deals first with the French origins of cochlear implantation in Paris in the 1950s and the role of André Djourno and Charles Eyriès. Following this work in Paris Dr William House in Los Angeles continued work on cochlear implants and, subsequently, experimental implant programmes were started in California, Paris, Vienna and Melbourne.
The next section of this lecture covers the experimental work of Galvani in establishing the role of electricity in physiology. The results of his first experiments were published in 1791, the year that Mondini produced the first account of a cochlear malformation in a congenitally deaf child.
At around the same time sign language for congenitally deaf children was being developed for the first time in Paris by Epée and the first disputes occurred between oralists and those who promoted signing for the education of congenitally deaf children.
In a present day cochlear implant programme good results from implanting congenitally deaf children at an early age and implanting adults who have become profoundly deaf are now taken for granted. We do have much to learn, however, from more complex implant candidates and some examples of such candidates are presented.
Lastly, looking to the future, the use of PET scanning to try and gain information about how the brain handles the information provided to it by a cochlear implant is described.