Recognized for his pioneering work in the field of prosthetics, Sliman Bensmaia passed away on Friday, August 11, at the age of 49. He is best known for his work in the neuroscience of touch which has enabled amputees and quadriplegics to sense temperature and pressure in prosthetic limbs. Clay Risen wrote an obituary published in the New York Times.
Sliman was born in Nice, France, and moved to the United States when he was 15. Although he loved music and studied cognitive science at the University of Virginia, he ultimately pivoted and earned his PhD in 2003. Sliman became a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University in 2000s when the Defense Department committed $100 million to prosthetics research.
Through his research, he sought to understand how the brain receives and processes information through touch. By connecting electrodes to areas of rhesus monkeys’ brains, the team was able to study the sensory information when their hands were stimulated by touch.
Sliman took his research to the University of Chicago in 2009 but continued to collaborate with former colleagues and teams at the University of Pittsburgh. At the time of his passing, Sliman was a professor in the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago. “Sliman was a driving force and real inspiration to others,” said Michael Coates, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy. “His research group was thriving in a phenomenal way, absolutely bursting at the seams with talented students and postdocs working on fundamental science for wonderfully thoughtful and constructive projects. While his work was intrinsically fascinating, he was just as thoughtful, sincere, and conscientious about supporting everyone around him.” View the university tribute to the late professor here.
He is survived by his wife and their two children. Funeral and memorial service details are pending.