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Dudley S. Childress

In Memoriam

In case there are some of us who have not heard of the loss of Dudley Childress, a dear part of the RERC program and many other great endeavors. - Jim Patton, UIC/RIC - 08/12/2014

Dudley S. Childress


I am sad to inform you that Dudley S. Childress, PhD, Professor Emeritus of PM&R at NUFSM and biomedical engineering at NU McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University, died on Wednesday, August 6, 2014, after a long illness. Originally from a small town in Missouri, Dr Childress received his Bachelor and Master degrees at University of Missouri (where he also played football on scholarship), and his PhD in Engineering at Northwestern. He joined the NU Prosthetics Research Laboratory as a Prosthetics Engineer, and pursued a highly productive research and academic career thereafter, later becoming the Director of the Prosthetics Research Laboratory and the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center, and Executive Director of the NU Prosthetic-Orthotic Center (NUPOC). He was a pioneer in biomedical engineering and in rehabilitation engineering in particular. It is important to note that many of the practices and products in common use today by people with disabilities and rehabilitation professionals were based on ideas or devices that Dr. Childress created.

Over the years, he directed a considerable number of Federal grant-supported research programs, published numerous papers in professional journals, and carried many patents of novel devices. He became known throughout the world for his many contributions to assistive technology, and for ideas and devices that revolutionized the thinking and the care of people with disabilities; these included: a myoelectric prosthetic hand with precise control, the sip-and-puff power wheelchair controller, a state-of-the-art motion analysis system, and many other innovations. Not surprisingly, he received numerous awards, including the VA Rehabilitation Research & Development Lifetime Service Award, a daVinci Lifetime Achievement Award for innovation, honorary membership in the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists, election to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences (one of Medicine's highest honors), and the Paul B. Magnuson Award, the VA system's highest rehabilitation research honor.

He was both creative and methodical in his approach to research and development. Most importantly, he was passionate about using engineering applications to improve quality of life for people with disabilities, mentoring trainees and junior faculty, and establishing his laboratory as an environment in which both scientific inquiry and social benefit were valued.

He also was a kind, humble, and generous man, with whom colleagues, trainees, and patients loved spending time. He freely shared with others his time, his expertise, his support, and mostly, his wisdom.

He is survived by his loving wife Nancy, his 2 sons, Stephen and Malcolm, and 3 grandchildren. Although he will be sorely missed by all of us who knew him and worked with him, we are comforted in knowing that his legacy survives in the devices and new knowledge that he created, the scientists and practitioners that he nurtured and mentored as trainees, and the patients who benefited from the techniques and technologies that he developed.

There will be a Memorial Service in honor of Dr. Childress on Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 2pm at Lake Street Church in Evanston.

You are invited to attend.

Elliot Roth
Department Chair
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Northwestern University