Mechanics of Hearing, 2008
10th International Workshop on the Mechanics of Hearing
Keele University, July 27-31, 2008

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A Little Bit of History: A Series of Symposia on "Mechanics of Hearing", by Egbert de Boer

The proceedings of the first seven Workshops
 (courtesy of A.W. Gummer).

    In the period from 1970 to 1980 many new facts about hearing came to light. To mention a few: in 1971 it became known that mechanical tuning of the basilar membrane is sharp and nonlinear, in 1974 inner hair cell potentials were shown to have sharp tuning, from 1978 on otoacoustic emissions became known as a (possibly essential) by-product of cochlear action (also demonstrating nonlinearity), and in view of the sharp tuning it became increasingly difficult to explain cochlear mechanics by a simple model. In 1980 the concept of an "active" cochlea was launched which gave birth to several theoretical developments. Furthermore, interesting aspects of spontaneous otoacoustic emissions became known. In short, the time was ripe for an international gathering of scientists to discuss the new findings and the new theories. In 1983 a symposium entitled "Mechanics of Hearing" was organized by Egbert de Boer and Max Viergever; it took place in the picturesque city of Delft in The Netherlands. The symposium encompassed sections dealing with the above-mentioned topics, and a few more that can be considered as forerunners of topics that later scientists concentrated on such as 'phase transitions and critical phenomena' and 'the Van der Pol oscillator as an element in cochlear mechanics'. The aim of the symposium was described as: "The emphasis is on those aspects of the external ear, the middle ear and the cochlea which, to the best of our knowledge, can be treated by a mechanistic analysis". It should be noted that this symposium had a motto, taken from "The Tempest" by Shakespeare:

PROSPERO: - Dost thou hear?
MIRANDA: - Your tale, Sir, would cure deafness.

The motto was meant to remind readers of the book that a good deal of our efforts in understanding hearing are directed toward helping people with hearing loss.

    The first symposium was highly successful. It has been followed by a series of symposia with approximately the same fundamental aims. The second symposium (1986) was organized by Jont Allen, Joe Hall, Allyn Hubbard, Steve Neely and Arnold Tubis, it was entitled "Peripheral Auditory Mechanisms" and took place in Boston, MA. The next few symposia alternately took place in the USA and in Europe. The third symposium (1989) was organized by Pat Wilson and Dave Kemp, and was entitled "Cochlear Mechanisms, Structure, Function and Models"; it took place in Keele, UK. Note here the concentration of subjects to just the cochlea. The fourth symposium (1990), entitled "The Mechanics and Biophysics of Hearing" was organized by Peter Dallos, Dan Geisler, John Matthews, Mario Ruggero and Charles Steele. The importance of biophysical aspects in hearing theory is evident from the title; this role is still increasing. That meeting took place in Madison, WI, and the participants remember the strolls along the lake where many important interactions took place. The fifth symposium took place in The Netherlands, in 1993. Its site was on a lake again, in Paterswolde, Groningen. Officially this was the year of retirement for the author of this 'history'.

    The sixth symposium took place in Berkeley, CA and was organized by Ted Lewis, Glennis Long, Richard Lyon, Peter Narins, Charles Steele and Eva Hecht-Poinar. In this symposium, entitled "Diversity in Auditory Mechanics", another aspect was brought to the fore, namely, the enormous diversity of hearing mechanisms throughout the animal kingdom. A real source of inspiration! The seventh symposium did not take place in Europe but in Japan, a country demonstrating an ever-increasing occupation with hearing science. The organizers were Hiroshi Wada and his collaborators T. Takasaka, K. Ikeda, Y. Susuki and T. Koike. The year was 2000 and the location Sendai, Japan. The symposium was entitled "Recent Developments in Auditory Mechanics". The eighth symposium took place in Europe again, in 2002 on the beautiful lakeside in Titisee in the Schwarzwald, Germany. Again a magnificent environment and a quiet setting. The title was: "Biophysics of the Cochlea from Molecules to Models" showing again the concentration on the mammalian cochlea and the extension toward molecular biology and biochemistry. The organizers were Tony Gummer and his local 'crew' of collaborators E. Dalhoff, M. Novotny, M.P. Scherer and A. Seeger.

    The ninth meeting was called "Auditory Mechanics", the shortest title in the series. The organizers were Fred Nuttall, Tianying Ren, Karl Grosh, Richard Walker, Peter Gillespie and Egbert de Boer. The meeting was held in Portland, Oregon, USA, a city providing an inspiring intellectual environment and located in a state of infinite beauty.

    It is stressed that there is no learned society, no international scientific committee, no institute or funding body that has continually supported this series of symposia. In all cases individual support has been sought (and found) from societies, associations and industries. Although the titles of the symposia do not mention it, the work reported in the proceedings books constitutes the sole and indispensable basis for the study, prevention and cure of hearing defects, and all efforts to improve the life of people who are hard-of-hearing.

Previous workshops in this series:
2008 July 27-31 Keele University, United Kingdom Concepts and Challenges in the Biophysics of Hearing N.P. Cooper and D.T. Kemp World Scientific
2005 July 23 - 28 Portland, Oregon, USA. Auditory Mechanisms: Processes and Models Fred Nuttall, Tianying Ren, Karl Grosh, Richard Walker, Peter Gillespie and Egbert de Boer World Scientific
2002 July 27 - Aug 1 Titisee,Germany The Biophysics of the Cochlea: Molecules to Models A.W.Gummer World Scientific
1999 July 25-30 Miyagi - Zao Hotel, Sendai, Japan Recent Developments in Auditory Mechanics Hiroshi Wada, T. Takasaka, K. Ikeda, Y. Susuki and T. Koike World Scientific
1996 June 24 - 28 University of California - Berkeley, USA Diversity in Auditory Mechanics E.R. Lewis, G.R. Long, R.F. Lyon, P.M. Narins, C.R. Steele and E. Hecht-Poinar World Scientific
1993 June 28 - July 3 Paterswolde, The Netherlands Biophysics of Hair Cell Sensory Systems H. Duifhuis, J.W. Horst, P. van Dijk and S. van Netten World Scientific
1990 June 25 - 29 University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA The Mechanics and Biophysics of Hearing Peter Dallos, Dan Geisler, John Matthews, Mario Ruggero and Charles Steele Springer-Verlag
1988 July 3 - 8 Keele University, United Kingdom Cochlear Mechanisms: Structure, Function and Models J.P. Wilson and D.T. Kemp Plenum Press
1985 Aug 13 - 16 Boston University, Massachusetts, USA Peripheral Auditory Mechanisms Jont Allen, Joe Hall, Allyn Hubbard, Steve Neely and Arnold Tubis Springer-Verlag
1983 July 13 - 15 Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands Mechanics of Hearing Egbert de Boer and Max Viergever Delft UP

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