This year marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of the first and seminal Lancet paper alerting the medical profession to the possibilities of the use of ultrasound, just 10 years after the birth of the NHS.
A unique and ground-breaking collaboration between experts in clinical obstetrics, engineering, electronics and industrial design created the first prototypes and production models of ultrasound scanners for routine obstetrics scanning in Glasgow hospitals. At the heart of this was a young industrial designer, Dugald Cameron.
The Glasgow School of Art has been in the forefront of design in manufacturing for over 170 years. It was established as one of the government technical schools to help local industry improve products.
It was whilst he was in his final year Industrial Design student that Dugald Cameron applied design to technology to help create the first ever ultrasound machine for use in diagnostic obstetrics. In so doing he was fulfilling the original purpose of the GSA, and this continues today.
Dugald Cameron’s first paid commission as a designer was the design and realisation of the prototype Sundén machine, and then he went on to design the first commercially produced ultrasonic scanner in the world,the Diasonograph, which was manufactured by Kelvin and Hughes, Glasgow.
The first women to benefit from his design were at Glasgow’s Yorkhill hospital in the 1960s.
Dugald Cameron went on to become a leading designer with commissions from companies as diverse as Singer, Rank Audio Visual, Lambert Engineering and Rolls Royce Ltd, and designs including steel office furniture, a colour TV receiver, a heavy duty industrial robot and concept designs for a new frigate.
In the 1990s he became Director of the GSA and set up the acclaimed Product Design Engineering (PDE) programme, which is jointly delivered by The Glasgow School of Art and Glasgow University. Current PDE students have recently looked at what future innovations there could be in this important part of every expectant mum’s pregnancy.
Professor Cameron said: “The development of ultrasonics for obstetrics in this country were pioneered by Prof Ian Donald of Glasgow University and the development of the product owed much to the engineers working for Glasgow-based firm Kelvin Hughes, particularly Tom Brown.
“My initial involvement began as a commission to make a drawing of a proposed unit. As a final year student I had persuaded Tom Brown to reconsider the design to facilitate its use by both medics and patients.
“The first outline drawings were done lying on the floor in Tom’s flat and progressed in the industrial design studio in the east end basement of the GSA’s Mackintosh Building.”
“The outcome was the Lund Machine and from this we went on to design the Diasonograph in 1965. This was the first ultrasound machine to go into service.”
“For a short time Glasgow was in the forefront of this ground-breaking technology but unfortunately in 1966 the company which had made the original Diasonograph machines withdrew the product and the technology went on to be developed elsewhere.”
“Being part of this ground-breaking work 60 years ago at the very beginning of my career as a designer was a tremendously exciting opportunity and I am delighted to know that the current cohort of Product Design Engineering students at the GSA have revisited ultrasound looking forward to the next 60 years.”
Professor Dugald Cameron will give a free, keynote lecture on his pivotal role in the development of the first ultrasound machine at 6pm on Thursday, November 29 in the Maurice Bloch Lecture Theatre, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons Glasgow, 242 St Vincent Street G2, 5RJ.
The lecture will be introduced by Professor Alastair Macdonald, senior researcher: design in health and care at the GSA and former head of PDE who worked with Dugald Cameron for many years.
Professor Macdonald was recently recognised in the AHRC-Wellcome Trust Health Humanities Medal with the Best Research award for his work in the area of Anti-Microbial Resistance.