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John Wild

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 26 October 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4428
  1. Geoff Watts

    Inventor of diagnostic ultrasound in medicine

    Although accurate, the phrase so often used to describe John Wild—“the father of diagnostic ultrasound”—does little to illuminate the imaginative mindset that underpins the epithet. This is best illustrated by a couple of the events that took place along his route to “fatherhood.” They include the invention of a charcoal powered motorcycle and the use of secret military equipment to measure the thickness of intestinal tissue from a dog—of which more shortly.

    Although English by birth and education (his medical degree was from Cambridge), Wild spent most of his working life in the United States. His practice in the United Kingdom was confined to two years at various London hospitals followed by service in the Royal Army Medical Corps in the final year of the second world war. It was the fuel shortages of the war period that prompted the first of Wild’s many outbursts of inventiveness: a miniature gas plant that runs on charcoal fitted to the sidecar of an old Harley Davidson motorcycle powered by an engine modified to use the carbon monoxide produced by the apparatus. The war also prompted an interest in the bowel distension that many Londoners endured as …

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