Some inventions not only lead to products with an impact on the lives of people around the globe but also act as game changers in their respective technical fields. The Lifetime Achievement category honors the contributions of inventors whose life-long work and dedication have forever changed the face of innovation.
Revolutionising the construction industry with the Fischer wall plug, and much more
Throughout the decades, Fischer’s curiosity, passion and overwhelming determination enabled him to revolutionise practical everyday items.
Prolific inventor and entrepreneur, founder of Fischerwerke, the manufacturing group
The Fischer wall plug, the photographic flash cube, the fischertechnik toy construction kit - these are only a few of many successes from legendary inventor Artur Fischer. Having filed over 1,100 patent applications and utility models, the tireless inventor developed the expanding wall plug in 1958 after becoming frustrated with the existing plugs while hanging shutters. Over 10 million Fischer plugs are now produced every day. Ten years earlier, the inspiration for the first flash cube with shutter synchronisation was also personally motivated, when there was not enough light in his home to take photos of his newborn daughter. Trained as a metalworker, the German inventor also created fischertechnik, the toy he wished he had had as a child. Even though he has passed the company on to his son Klaus, Fischer still continues his work to this day: “Success is not a matter of the wallet but of the heart.”
Ingeborg Hochmair, Erwin Hochmair
Bringing hearing to the deaf with the cochlear implant
The cochlear implant is one of the greatest medical achievements of our time: it is still the only device that has successfully replaced a sensory organ.
Electrical engineers and founders of MED-EL, the cochlear implant manufacturer
The gift of hearing to those born deaf is the staggering achievement from researchers Ingeborg and Erwin Hochmair. Over 200,000 people have gained the power of hearing thanks to this device, which enables deaf people to perceive and understand human voices and words. The Austrian couple decided early to devote their lives to overcoming hearing loss, starting their relationship by working together and later marrying: “Our colleagues at the university always called us the ‘electronic couple’.” Their breakthrough came in the late 1970s, with an implant in the ear’s cochlea that electronically stimulates the acoustic nerve to transport sounds to the brain. The multi-channel implant was then supplemented by an externally worn audio processor, enabling patients to understand words and sentences. Suitable both for deaf-born children and adults with severe hearing impairments, the market for hearing implants continues to grow due to pollution-related hearing damage and longer life expectancy.
Wieslaw L. Nowinski
Mapping the brain with 3D brain atlases for clinical use
Brain research is becoming increasingly important in light of the world’s aging populations. Nowinski is a pioneer as well as a source of impetus in this research area.
Scientist, director of the Biomedical Imaging Lab at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore.
The three-dimensional brain atlases created by Wieslaw Nowinski are a breakthrough for the treatment of disorders and diseases in the brain. The work of the Polish scientist, now living in Singapore, forms the basis of novel solutions for neurosurgery, neuroradiology, neurology, stroke and education, having already benefited hundreds of thousands of patients by improving surgical outcomes. The brain maps also enable novel approaches to Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, pain and psychiatric disorders. Nowinski is inspired by the prospect of helping people by giving doctors tools to diagnose and treat more effectively: “Our two most valuable gifts are time and brain, so I use my time to work on the brain.” The atlases are comparable to a car’s navigation system, with diseased areas flagged like warnings about traffic obstructions. Nowinski found it most convenient to use himself as the subject of study, meaning the brain atlases are actually a journey through the scientist’s own mind.