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Ultrasound scanner

transforming antenatal care Scotland,

The abdomen of a pregnant woman in the foreground with a doctor’s hand conducting a sonogram. In the background is a monitor showing an image of the fetus.
Obstetric sonography with research on the monitor. Science Museum/ Science & Society Picture Library

Half a century after the remarkable discovery of X-rays in 1895, the limits of their medical applications had become clear. They were unable to detect soft tissue, such as tumours, and in 1956 Alice Stewart proved a link between prenatal exposure to X-rays and cancer. 

Medical researchers began experimenting with ultrasound, developed from work done on sonar in the Second World War. Unlike X-rays, ultrasound appeared to have no harmful effects on fetuses. 

In 1961 the Diasonagraph Mark 1 ultrasound scanner was built in Scotland. It was able to provide one- and two-dimensional scans of a fetus. It was used by Dr Stuart Campbell, who ensured that the ultrasound became a key part of antenatal care. As a bonus, ultrasound technology is relatively inexpensive and portable. 

Science Museum

Key Individuals
Stuart Campbell,