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Dr. John J. Wild, Pioneer of Diagnostic Ultrasound  


Photo Gallery:  The Beginning of Soft Tissue Pulsed Ultrasonic Cellular Structure and Histological Detection-Diagnosis

Figure 1.  In this first experiment (Spring 1949), the use of pulse-echo ultrasound for measuring biological tissues was investigated.  The ability to provide proof for the use of pulse-echo ultrasound to measure the thickness of soft-tissue came from surgical knowledge of the varying thickness of small intestine between the entry to the blood vessels on the left and the opposite side of the bowel on the left top and the left bottom.  A piece of fresh dog bowel was taken from a newly sacrificed dog, opened with a knife as shown, and sewn onto a wire frame for handling. This experimental specimen was immediately transported to the U.S. Navy Air Base in Minneapolis where, by pre-arrangement, Dr. Wild had permission to use classified Navy ordnance, subject to oversight by Donald Neal, the Navy aeronautical engineer in charge of the 15 megacycle flight trainer.  The wire frame specimen was submerged in a corner of the trainer’s water tank and positioned to transect the stationery trainer’s sound beam as the specimen was moved from side to side, or to the middle, as shown above.  Donald sat with his back to the specimen in the tank in order to read the trainer’s electronic instruments.  The specimen was moved from the “thick� to the “thin � areas.  Donald Neal was requested while looking at his instrument to say, “thick� or “thin,� according to where the specimen was moved without his knowledge or in his line of sight.  He did not know what particular part of the specimen the sound beam was traversing.  He only called “thick� or “thin,� depending on where the fixed beam transected the specimen.  A tally was kept of the position of the sound beam and the call made by Donald.  To Donald’s increasing excitement, after many attempts in a matter of a half an hour, his calls and the thickness of the specimen relating to each call of “thick� or “thin� turned out to be precise.  Needless to say, Donald, who had been very skeptical about the experiment, suddenly said, “Gee Doc! You’ve got something there.�  This sealed his trust in subsequent experiments.  This experiment in the spring of l949 represented the first time any ultrasonic machine has been used for the direct, linear measurement of soft tissue.  It is the beginning of ultrasonic soft tissue reflection measurement; and publication of the experiment is the primary reference [SURGERY, February 1950] in the field of diagnostic pulse-echo ultrasound. 

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Figure 2.  Dr. Wild is testing the closure of echoscope’s water-filled transducer chamber by condom rubber to permit clinical handling and application to the skin.  (Circa 1950)

Figure 3.  By 1955, this was Dr. Wild’s vision for the future application of diagnostic ultrasound after his initial experimentation.  He envisioned applying ultrasonic instruments to various internal organs.   

Figure 4.  Dr. Wild’s demonstration of the interdisciplinary possibilities of the contributing disciplines to the diagnosis of cancer (June 1953). 

Figure 5.  Dr. Wild checking on the operation of his clinical echographic breast scanner instrument.  (Circa 1953)



Last modified: January 15, 2003