Today it is a common
experience for parents to see a picture of their baby
before it is born when the mother has a scan. This scan uses ultrasound,
a sound with a pitch far above the range we can hear. The first
such pictures of unborn babies were produced in Glasgow by Professor
Ian Donald and his team in the late 1950s.
The medical use of ultrasound for making pictures
of the inside of the body was first suggested in the 1930s. However,
it needed advances in Sonar, which is used to detect submarines
and shoals of fish, and in electronics before success was possible.
In 1955, Professor Donalds experiments,
at the firm of Babcock and Wilcox in Renfrew, showed that it was
possible to probe the human body with ultrasound waves. This was
followed by co-operation with Kelvin Hughes (later Smith Industries)
in Hillington. The first pictures were published in 1958. Each picture
took a few minutes to produce.
The early work in the West of Scotland and elsewhere
was followed by tremendous developments. These were achieved by
the close co-operation of doctors, engineers, physicists and technicians.
We now have scanners which provide highly detailed moving images,
showing the flow of blood in the body.
Ultrasound is used today in virtually all hospitals
and it is particularly valuable for examining the heart, liver,
kidneys, spleen, eye muscles and other soft parts of
Return to the 1940 - 1950s
Return to the Timelime