70 Years In Pictures Innovation

Polaroid cameras, which had become popular in the

1950s, were used to take the pictures in the first diagnostic ultrasound machines

Breakthroughs of global significance


Today it is a common experience for parents to ‘see’ their baby before it is born, when the mother has a scan. Tis type of scan uses ultrasound, and the first such pictures of unborn babies were produced in the 1950s by Ian Donald, Regius Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Glasgow University. Professor Donald served as a Medical

Officer in the RAF during the Second World War, when he was mentioned in dispatches and awarded an MBE for bravery. In 1951 he was appointed Reader in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at St Tomas Medical School, London, where he devised a respirator for new-born babies with breathing problems. During his time in the RAF, he had

18 | NHS70 | SUMMER 2018

become interested in the possibilities of adapting radar and sonar technology for medical diagnosis. Te medical application of ultrasound had first been suggested in the 1930s, but advances in sonar and elec- tronics were necessary before it was pos- sible for Professor Donald’s experiments, at engineering firm Babcock and Wilcox in Renfrew, to demonstrate the ability to probe the body with ultrasound waves. Professor Donald subsequently worked

with Tom Brown, of the scientific instru- ment makers Kelvin & Hughes, to create the first diagnostic ultrasound machine, and in 1958, along with Brown and university col- league John MacVicar, they published their landmark findings in Te Lancet. Tat first machine was refined by Dugald

Cameron, a young industrial designer who later became head of the Glasgow School of Art, to make it less intimidating to expect-

The history of the NHS in Scotland is a story of innovation, as will be its future

ant mothers. Polaroid cameras, which had become popular in the 1950s, were used to take the pictures. Tis early work was built on through the

collaboration of doctors, engineers, physi- cists, and technicians in the UK, America, Japan, and Sweden. Today, scanners are capable of displaying moving pictures, even the flow of blood. Professor Donald was also the driving

force behind the creation of a new maternity hospital; the Queen Mother’s Hospital at Yorkhill, or ‘Storkhill’ to some. He was an outspoken pro-life campaigner

and as a result did not receive the official recognition that he might otherwise have received; as John Lenihan, Professor of Clinical Physics at Glasgow University and science correspondent for the Glasgow Her- ald put it: “Others have gone to the House of Lords for less”.

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