October 27, 1912–May 10, 2002
BY JAY M. GOLDBERG AND NELSON Y.-S. KIANG
WILLIAM DUWAYNE (“DEWEY”) NEFF WAS a plainspoken Mid-westerner, who became committed to the study of hearing as an undergraduate and maintained that commitment throughout his career. Best known for his use of the ablation method to study the functions of the various levels of the auditory pathways, he combined behavioral, electrophysiological, and neuroanatomical techniques to define deficits in auditory function more elaborate than simple audiometry. Rather than concocting intricate theories, he was content to follow experimental facts wherever they led. Because of his sound judgment and no-nonsense style, he was asked to provide advice to numerous professional and governmental agencies. His straightforward, nonpedantic approach to science appealed to graduate students. It may very well be that the large number of graduate students that he trained is one of his most enduring legacies. Many of these graduate students went on to distinguished careers and, following in his footsteps, trained many successful scientists.
Dewey Neff was born on October 27, 1912, in Lomax, Illinois, to Lyman Neff and Emma Jacobson. A sister named Jenona had been born a year earlier. Dewey’s father, like his own father and brothers, was a skilled carpenter, but for