Murray Sachs

SACHS, Murray of Arlington, MA, formerly of Baltimore, MD, on Saturday, March 3, 2018. Beloved husband of the late Merle (Diener) Sachs. Devoted father of Benjamin Sachs & his wife Lisa, and Jonathan Sachs & his wife Kate. Loving grandfather of Talia, Aviva, Zoe, Zander, Jonah, and Miriam. Loving uncle of Nancy Colier and Steven Shainberg. 

Murray was a renowned scientist who received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical engineering from MIT (B.S. '62, M.S. '64, Ph.D. '66). He worked in the field of biomedical engineering, in particular using mathematics to model the way sound is received, transmitted, encoded, and comprehended between the ear and the brain, laying groundwork for advances such as the cochlear implant. He served as the Director of the Biomedical Engineering Department at Johns Hopkins University. Murray was elected a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering for his scientific contributions and his leadership in biomedical engineering education. Murray is remembered as having a gentle soul, and as being a calm leader and generous mentor. He was a loving husband, beloved father, doting grandfather, and a deeply devoted colleague and friend. He will be profoundly missed.

Services at Temple Beth Avodah, 45 Puddingstone Lane, Newton, MA on Monday, March 5 at 2pm.

In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research

Following is a tribute to Murray to the school of medicine community:

Dear Colleagues,

We are saddened to share that Murray B. Sachs, a pioneering scientist who led the biomedical engineering department at Johns Hopkins for 16 years, died March 3 after a long illness. He was 77.

Considered a legend in the field of biomedical engineering, Dr. Sachs’ research on how the brain receives and processes sound paved the way for the development of cochlear implants—electronic devices that deliver a sense of sound to people with hearing loss.

He is also credited with doubling the size of the biomedical engineering department, creating a unique research and training environment housed within two schools of The Johns Hopkins University. Today, the department is one of the leading biomedical engineering programs in the world, with more than 100 affiliated faculty members and nearly 800 undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students.

A native of St. Louis, Dr. Sachs earned his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and completed his master’s degree and doctorate at MIT in electrical engineering and auditory physiology.

Following his graduate work, Dr. Sachs served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, where he worked on underwater submarine communications for two years. After completing postdoctoral research studies on visual neuroscience at the University of Cambridge in 1969, he returned to the Navy, working as a research scientist until the following year.

In 1970, Dr. Sachs joined the faculty of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine as an assistant professor of biomedical engineering. He spent the rest of his career at Johns Hopkins, rising to the rank of professor in 1980.

During his tenure from 1991 to 2007 as the Massey Professor and director of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, Dr. Sachs established in 1999 the Whitaker Biomedical Engineering Institute, a collaboration between the Johns Hopkins University’s school of medicine and Whiting School of Engineering. This began the transition of the biomedical engineering department from being housed at the school of medicine to a unique joint affiliation with the school of engineering. Under Dr. Sachs’ leadership, this transition was solidified in 2001 with construction of the first building—Clark Hall—dedicated solely to biomedical engineering at the Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus.

Dr. Sachs also established the Center for Hearing Sciences in 1986, which later became the Center for Hearing and Balance, an internationally recognized group of researchers spanning the disciplines of biology, engineering and medicine.

Dr. Sachs was named University Distinguished Service Professor at Johns Hopkins in 2007 and, in addition to biomedical engineering, held the rank of professor in neuroscience and otolaryngology.

Known as an inspiring teacher, Dr. Sachs trained many scientists who are now leaders in auditory research and other biomedical engineering disciplines.

Dedicated to advancing the field, Dr. Sachs was a member of many professional societies, including the Association for Research in Otolaryngology and the Society for Neuroscience. He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Acoustical Society of America and the Biomedical Engineering Society, and a founding fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.

Among his awards are the lifetime achievement award from the American Auditory Society, an award of merit from the Association for Research in Otolaryngology and the von Békésy Medal from the Acoustical Society of America. In 2002, he was elected into the National Academy of Engineering, considered one of the highest professional honors accorded to engineers.

Dr. Sachs’ wife, Merle, died earlier this year on Feb. 11. They were residents of Boston. We send our condolences to Dr. Sachs’ son, Benjamin, and his wife, Lisa, of Boston; son Jonathan and his wife, Kate, of St. Paul, Minnesota; and six grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held Monday, March 5, at the Temple Beth Avodah in Newton, Massachusetts.


Paul B. Rothman, M.D.
Dean of the Medical Faculty
CEO, Johns Hopkins Medicine

T.E. Schlesinger
Benjamin T. Rome Dean
Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering

Photo from Will Vaughn of Jeff, Murray and Tom