Dudley Childress, one of the first graduates of the biomedical engineering PhD program at the McCormick School of Engineering who went on to conduct important work in rehabilitation engineering, passed away Aug. 6 after a long illness.
Childress’s pioneering work led him to be elected in 1995 as a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. During his long career, he was a professor of biomedical engineering at McCormick, professor of physical and rehabilitation medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, director of the Prosthetics Research Laboratory and the Rehabilitation Engineering Research program, and a senior rehabilitation research scientist at the VA Chicago Health Care System.
“Dudley was one of a handful of people from Northwestern elected to Institute of Medicine, the pinnacle of his profession,” said Julio M. Ottino, dean of McCormick. “In addition to his innovative work he was one of the most gracious professors I have had the pleasure of knowing."
He received his PhD from McCormick in 1967 and was the first biomedical engineer appointed to a joint faculty position in the medical and engineering schools at Northwestern. Throughout his career he worked at the intersection of engineering and medicine to develop numerous assistive devices for people with limb disabilities, including the first myoelectric system that allowed a prosthetic user to control the speed and grip force of the device’s fingers in 1968, a sip-and-puff wheelchair in 1972, and a state-of-the-art motion analysis system in 1998.