Everyone is aware these days of the use of ultrasound in medicine, although most people will associate ultrasound with pregnancy, as all pregnant women are offered at least two baby scans as part of the NHS prenatal care. The spectrum of ultrasound imaging, however, today is so wide, and it is not confined only to medicine but includes applications in engineering and other disciplines.
Lett take a look back in history to find out how sound waves became the diagnostic tool used in private ultrasound clinics and hospitals all over the world today.
Who discovered Ultrasound?
The first paper about ultrasound was published in 1794 by Lazzaro Spallanzani an Italian physiologist and biologist who studied bats and discovered that they use sound to navigate instead of sight. This property is called echolocation, and it is the foundation that governs today’s medical ultrasound.
In 1826 a Swiss physicist name Jean Daniel Colladon used a church bell underwater and discovered that sound travels faster in the water than in the air.
Christian Andreas Doppler, an Austrian physicist and mathematician, discovered in 1842 that the frequency of a sound wave depends on the speed of the source. This principle is today known s the Doppler effect.
In 1880 Pierre Curie and his brother Jacques Curie, demonstrated the first piezoelectric effect, which is the ability of certain materials to generate an electric charge in response to mechanical stress, using crystals of tourmaline, quartz, topaz, cane sugar, and Rochelle salt.
The first working sonar system in the United States was built to detect icebergs by Reginald Fessenden in 1914. This was followed by the detection of submarines in 1917 and the detection of aircraft in 1935.
The use of ultrasound in medicine was first evaluated in 1942 by Karl Theodore Dussik to diagnose brain tumours, and in 1949 George Döring Ludwig, used ultrasound to detect gallstones.
The use of ultrasound in medicine accelerated, and its use was established in urology and cardiac applications in 1958; Ian Donald published an article in The Lancet titled Investigation of Abdominal Masses by Pulsed Ultrasound. Donald uses ultrasound to detect abdominal tumours and cysts and later is able to detect a twin pregnancy. Ian Donald becomes the father of OB-GYN ultrasound.
Ultrasound History Timeline
You can see a detailed timeline of the history of ultrasound below.
Physicist Paul Langevin was commissioned to invent a device that detected objects at the bottom of the sea as a result of the sinking of the Titanic. He invented the hydrophone which today is perceived as the first transducer.