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Photo of Dr. Zemlin paddling a canoe

Biography of Professor Willard R. Zemlin
July 20, 1929 - December 21, 1998

Born in Two Harbors, Minnesota, Bill Zemlin's early careers included radio and television repair, electronics, railroading, and serving with the U.S. Army in Korea. He enrolled at the University of Minnesota in 1953, and was introduced to the field of speech and hearing science by his wife Eileen, a speech pathologist. With degrees in experimental psychology, speech pathology, and speech science, he joined the University of Illinois faculty in September, 1962, retiring as professor emeritus in 1985.

Dr. Zemlin was a man with intense interests. Foremost was his profound fascination with the anatomy of speech and hearing. He was driven to learn everything about it, and not satisfied with what he could learn from books, he wanted to see for himself. Thus, with the cooperation of U of I School of Basic Medical Sciences, began his years spent in the dissection laboratory, meticulously determining the construction and probable function of every structure--bone, cartilage, muscle, tissue. In his lectures he often emphasized the importance of variability--"We are as different on the inside as we are on the outside."

For years, Dr. Zemlin, using two cameras, one with black and white film, the other with slide film, took photos at key points in the dissecting process. An avid photographer, he delved into photographic techniques with his characteristic thoroughness, developing and printing his photos in his darkroom laboratory and also studying laryngeal behavior using a high-speed motion picture camera. He not only supplied most of the photographs, but also executed most of the line drawings needed for his textbook, Speech and Hearing Science, Anatomy and Physiology, first published in 1964, and for future editions in 1968,1981,1988, and 1998. This classic was perhaps the most widely known, as well as the longest used, textbook in the entire field.

Hundreds of students were challenged by topics from Aperiodic vibrations to Zygomatic arches. Hundreds of publications, presentations, theses and dissertations bear his name or influence. Hundreds of examples of his sense of humor, stubborness, sensitivity and sageness can be cited by those who worked or studied with him. They also recall Dr. Zemlin's zest for learning, his passion for music, and his love of the northwoods.

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Department of Speech and Hearing Science

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