Bill Rhode Awarded the von Bekesy Medal

People listened to von Bekesy when he did declare
That the basilar membrane does in resonance ensnare
The frequency of sound by its width and stiffness.
Even ears of corpses can perform this passive business.
A Nobel Prize came in 1961,
But the story was not done.

A bright, young engineering student came along
Willing to use a technique that was new and strong.
How can one measure mechanics without perturbation?
With skill, hours of practice, and determination.
Bill Rhode got insight;
Von Bekesy was not all right.

Bill found that a motor gives the ear its tuning
That requires life and energy to support hearing.
Not everyone agreed; many disparaged the notion
That there is non-linearity in cochlear motion.
Bill continued working.
Others started doubting.

That Bill was right has now been known for years
The Bekesy Medal recognizes key work on ears.
Even though Bill tends toward the understated;
His work is by others no longer underrated.
Bill earned this medal.
We celebrate his mettle.

Donata Oertel
June 2009

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