Image of a cell

Hallowell Davis

  • National Medal of Science
  • Biological Sciences

For fundamental research on nerve potentials, electroencephalography, and mechanisms of hearing that have formed the basis for advances in neurophysiology, neurology, otolaryngology, audiology, acoustics, occupational health safety, and pediatrics.

Hallowell Davis viewed his research as a way of caring for the world.

“It is my duty and privilege to learn what I can about the ways of nature and man and, if this knowledge is to help mankind, to share it with others,” the physiologist told Edward R. Murrow during an interview in 1953.

Some of his early work for the Central Institute for the Deaf involved building better hearing aids for combat veterans.

In the 1930s, he advanced the development of the electroencephalograph, or EEG, which measures small electrical charges in the brain.

Via his own head, scientists measured the first brainwaves ever seen in America.

Turning his attention to the inner ear, Davis studied how electrical impulses are transmitted to the brain via the cochlear nerve.

Understanding these impulses helped doctors diagnose hearing deficits in infants during a period where children with audiological problems were often mislabeled as slow learners.