History Tuesday………….Ultrasound

ultrasound image

Here we are at another Tuesday afternoon, this week in History Tuesday I am going to tell you a little about the history of the ultrasound why because this morning I had to have one done on my stomach area. I think we are used to ultrasounds although I am sure there are people who only think they are used on pregnant women but that is far from true.

In 1794 Lazzaro Spallanzani a Physiologist was the first known man to experiment with ultrasound.

Then in 1826 Jean Daniel Colladon and Physicist used under-water church bell an early ultrasound transducer under-water to calculate the speed of sound through water to prove that sound travelled faster through water than air.


Let’s jump forward to 1915 when Paul Langevin another Physicist invents a Hydrophone (1st transducer) to detect Icebergs and Submarines during the first World War.

dussik2dussikapparatus 1946

However, it wasn’t till 1942 when a Neurologist and Psychiatrist Karl Dussik at the University of Vienna used ultrasound for medical diagnosis he was looking for brain tumours.


The in 1948 George Ludwig M,D described the us of ultrasound to diagnosed gallstones.

scan convertor early model

Ok let’s move onto a bit more about the use of ultrasounds here in Australia, it was in 1962 that the first ultrasound machine was used in obstetrics the machine consisted of a trolley running on a circular track and performed compound scan motions. The patient stood on a angled stretcher and her abdomen was brought into contact with the flexible window on the wall of the coupling tank. That first scan took place at the Royal Hospital for Women in Paddington, Sydney on the 11 May 1962 and a week later on the 18th May the examination showed that the foetus could clearly be displayed and that some echoes were seen within the foetal boundary. Examples of this work were presented by George Kossoff at a symposium, held at the University of Illinois in the USA in June 1962 and was acknowledged as the state-of-the-art for the time.

therapy-uses_ultrasound 1940

A couple of years later in 1964 the first ophthalmic echoscope was used at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Camperdown Sydney and in 1966 the first breast echoscope was installed at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney. In the early 1970’s the same type of ultrasound used to scan the abdomen was used to look at babies and children’s brains. To scan with this machine each cross section had to be scanned in 17 seconds.


The sonographers’ training in contact scanning techniques was undertaken by scanning in rhythm with a metronome and timed by a stopwatch until the technique was mastered. The later development of the analogue scan converter, thankfully relaxed the method.

They have come a long way since those first days, now days there are several different scanning modes in medical and obstetric ultrasound, the most common and standard is 2D scanning although 3D is also quiet common now usually with obstetric scans, with 3D scanning instead of the sound waves being sent straight down and reflected back they are sent at d different angles, the returning echoes are processed by a sophisticated computer program resulting in a reconstructed three-dimensional volume image of the foetus’s surface or internal organs.

3D ultrasound was patented by Olaf Von Ramm and Stephen Smith at Duke University in 1987

different ultrasound


6 thoughts on “History Tuesday………….Ultrasound

  1. To think, we’ve gone from basically modified sonar to now being able to get a 3D printed model of a fetus in 100 years. HD is a little terrifying, but really cool. I admire people whose brains work like Dussik and Kossoff’s. I wouldn’t make that leap from detecting icebergs to finding gallstones to detecting babies (not sure “detecting” is the right word there). Great History Tuesday, yet again!

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