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NIDCD's Naunton Is Mourned

Dr. Ralph F. Naunton, former director of the Division of Communication Sciences and Disorders, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, died on Feb. 28 of heart failure at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda. Under his leadership, NIDCD began supporting research in the development of cochlear implants, the neural prosthesis used by some deaf people to hear.

Dr. Ralph F. Naunton
"He was a great champion of our research discipline, and his leadership and support will be greatly missed by an adoring research community," said Dr. James F. Battey, NIDCD director.

Born in London, Naunton received graduate training at University College and University College Hospital, University of London. From 1945 to 1947 he earned graduate degrees from the Royal College of Surgeons, the Royal College of Physicians in London and the University of London. He was certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology in 1965 and the American Speech and Hearing Association in 1969.

Leaving England in 1954, Naunton began an illustrious career in the department of surgery (otolaryngology) at the University of Chicago. He served as chair of the section on otolaryngology from 1966 to 1978. He left as professor emeritus of surgery (otolaryngology) in 1979 to join NIH. It was during his 16 years at NIH, first with the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke and then from 1988 to his retirement from NIDCD, that he supported research to improve the clinical utility of the cochlear implant. It remains the most successful neural prosthesis today. He also encouraged the early identification of hearing loss in infants and research to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.

Naunton received international recognition for his contributions to the science of hearing and balance. He served as president of the American Auditory Society. He was a fellow of many professional associations, including the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and the American College of Surgeons. He was on the boards of many organizations, including the Deafness Research Foundation, the American Otological Society, the Better Hearing Institute and the International Hearing Foundation. He was a member of the international Collegium Otorhinolaryngologicum Amicitiae Sacrum, as well as numerous other professional organizations.

Naunton is survived by his wife Natasha, two sons, Phillip and David Naunton, both of Chicago, and a daughter, Angelique Cofield of Chevy Chase.

A memorial service was held on Mar. 3. Tributes in Naunton's honor may be made to further the research and education that was his life's work and passion. Contributions may be sent to the Deafness Research Foundation, 1050 17th St., NW, Suite 701, Washington, D.C. 20036, (202) 289-5850.

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