Prototype ‘gold box’ cochlear implant

Made by University of Melbourne in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1979.

This object, together with the prototype wearable speech processor, documents a critical step in the development of Australian research that has had continued impact around the world. This research, led by Dr Graeme Clark in the 1970s, formed the basis of Cochlear Ltd, an Australian company which became an international leader in the manufacture and sale of cochlear implant systems. By 2010 over 200 000 people in more than 100 countries had received the implant, which enables profoundly deaf peo...


Prototype 'gold box' cochlear implant or bionic ear, mixed materials, designed and made at the University of Melbourne Department of Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1979

Comprises a gold-coated stainless steel box containing electrical components (a sandwich of three razor thin sub-strata with silicon chips and thousands of transistors). Visible on top of the box is a red enamel-coated copper coil that forms the receiver. This has a carbon base back plate behind it. The package is coated in clear silicone, an electrode protrudes from the box and contains twenty electrodes of which ten were active. The reverse of the device is coated in white silicone incorporating a layer of Dacron mesh which was designed to help bind the device to the body and keep it in place inside the patient.


75 mm
32 mm
10 mm


This is the second version of the 'gold box' prototype multichannel cochlear implant, or receiver-stimulator, designed and made at the University of Melbourne Department of Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery, Melbourne, VIC, Australia, in 1979. Design and manufacture of this 'gold box' was undertaken by a group of people including Dr David Dewhurst and Ian Forster from the University's Department of Electrical Engineering and Jim Patrick from the Department of Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery.

This type of implant was developed for implantation in the second test patient George Watson on 13 July 1979. It does not have the 'connector' that featured on the first prototype implanted in Rod Saunders on 1 August 1978.
University of Melbourne 1979


Gift of Professor Graeme Clark and the University of Melbourne, 2011
28 February, 2011

Cite this Object

Prototype 'gold box' cochlear implant 2016, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 22 September 2017, <>
{{cite web |url= |title=Prototype 'gold box' cochlear implant |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=22 September 2017 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
This object is currently on display in Experimentations at the Powerhouse Museum.
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