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Dr. Nicholas DeClaris, electrical engineer and a Shock Trauma protocol founder, dies

Dr. Nicholas DeClaris found ways to apply electrical engineering to medicine.
Dr. Nicholas DeClaris found ways to apply electrical engineering to medicine.

Dr. Nicholas DeClaris, a former University of Maryland, College Park electrical engineer who helped create the Maryland Shock Trauma System, died March 28 of a blood-borne bacterial infection at Lighthouse Senior Living in Ellicott City.

He was 89 and lived in Fulton in Howard County.

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“He was a talented electrical engineer, academic leader and a visionary scientist,” said Dr. William E. “Brit” Kirwan, former chancellor of the University System of Maryland. “He was one of the first to appreciate that electrical engineering and medicine could be connected.”

Born in Drama, Greece, he was the son of Elias DeClaris, a judge, and his wife, Eleni.

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“My father lived under and resisted Nazi occupation in Greece and was a resistance fighter. As a teenager he ran ammunition, food and supplies to Greek soldiers and resistance groups,” said his son, John-William DeClaris, a Fulton resident.

He spent much of the war on the island of Andros, which was occupied by German and Italian forces.

According to a family biography, he came to Texas after World War II, initially working in an uncle’s restaurant. He studied at Kilgore College and transferred to Texas A&M University, from which he earned a bachelor’s degree and earned a Jesse Jones Award for Achievement.

He then received a master’s degree and doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and studied with Ernst Guillemin, an early proponent of network analysis.

“My father had a strong talent in mathematics, and his first notable achievement was a proof that changed electrical engineering and component design,” his son said.

His son explained that Dr. DeClaris worked out a solution that eliminated the need for inductors and published a scientific paper about it.

'It was also during that time that he started a small venture called ResCon with a lawyer friend, Ralph Margolis. He worked with other mathematicians and electrical engineers — Rudolf Kalman, Amar Bose, Ed David, and Norbert Weiner," his son said.

Dr. DeClaris danced as a Boston Arthur Murray dance student and then became an instructor.

“It was his way of meeting people,” his son said.

He became an associate professor of electrical engineering and applied mathematics at Cornell University and worked in the then-new field of artificial intelligence. He also held the university chair in aeronautics.

Dr. DeClaris joined the faculty of the University of Maryland, College Park in 1967, where he worked in fluid dynamics and applied mathematics.

Dr. DeClaris served as head of the department of electrical engineering at College Park from 1967 to 1974.

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His son said that among his University of Maryland students was Dr. Judith A. Resnick, who died in the 1986 Challenger accident.

Dr. DeClaris continued his professorship at College Park and also worked with Dr. R Adams Cowley in his efforts to build Shock Trauma at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Dr. Kirwan said: “I knew Nick well as a colleague. He was an outstanding chair of the department of electrical engineering, and he was instrumental in creating Shock Trauma and was responsible for creating many of its systems.”

He became Shock Trauma’s associate director and worked to create medical protocols and procedures for Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems. He examined ways to merge engineering principles and medical science. His work led to practices known as informatics and biomedical engineering.

“It is anecdotal, but my father and Dr. Cowley often discussed, and possibly created, the phrase ‘the Golden Hour,’ to describe the critical time a trauma patient has,” said his son.

“He also developed a strong friendship with the professor and pathologist Dr. Ben Trump,” his son said. “He remained a hard worker and expanded his research into medicine and pathology after stepping down at Shock Trauma.”

Dr. DeClaris also worked part-time at the National Science Foundation with Dr. Joe Bordogna. His work became part of the initiative to create an Emerging Technologies Program in the Ronald Reagan administration.

In 2011, Dr. DeClaris retired from the University System of Maryland. He was honored by a citation from Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Dr. DeClaris enjoyed travel and read classical history. He also studied the great mathematicians, including Pythagoras, Euclid, Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell and Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier.

“My father was a Greek Orthodox, and he wished for no funeral service,” his son said. “His ashes will be interred at the family crypt in Greece after the pandemic abates.”

In addition to his son, survivors include his wife, Clemencia Alvarez, and a brother, Michael DeClaris of Greece. His first wife, Joan Guiffre, died in 1981.

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