Ultrasound technology has become an essential discovery in the present, thanks in large part to its capacity to accurately predicting the sex of a fetus. However, when the technology was first proposed in the 18th century, few could have envisioned that it would such an important capability. Physiologist Lazzaro Spallanzani first suggested ultrasound when he was studying how bats could echolocate themselves in the dark in 1794. Echolocation would form the foundation for ultrasound technology. About eighty years later, brothers Jacques and Pierre Currie invented piezoelectricity, a phenomenon that allowed ultrasound transducers to receive and emit sound waves through a process called the piezoelectric effect (Woo, 2002).
In 1915, immediately after the Titanic has shocked the world by sinking on its first-ever voyage, physicist Paul Langevin was motivated to conceive a device that would detect objects located at the bottom of the ocean. This led him to discover the hydrophone, widely regarded as the first-ever transducer. During the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, sonography found wide usage in physical therapy. For instance, European soccer teams used the technology to sterilize vaccines, mollify eczema and arthritic pain. In 1942, the technology was first used clinically. Neurologist Karl Dussik ran an ultrasound beam through a human skull as a way of detecting brain tumors. His success encouraged another usage for medical purposes (Woo, 2002).
In 1948, internist George Ludwig came up with A-mode ultrasound equipment that would detect gallstones. This equipment was to be improved further by Joseph Holmes and Douglas Howry, who invented a B-mode device. They would later develop a 2-dimension linear compound scanner in 1951. Another discovery was a device to sense breast tumors, by John Reid and John Wild. In 1953, the first successful echocardiogram was performed. This method utilized echo test control equipment from a shipyard. This pioneering technique was carried out by Inge Edler, a physician, and Hellmuth Hertz, an engineer (Woo, 2002).
In 1958, the usage of ultrasound hit a new high when it was first used in the obstetrics and gynecology field. The leading figure of this advancement was Ian MacDonald. This would later form the basis of the current practice of using imaging to detect the sex of a fetus. Almost a decade later, John Reid, Dennis Watkins, and Don Baker would come up with a pulsed Doppler ultrasound system. This made it possible to image blood flow in several layers of the heart. The 1970s saw the discovery of a number of sonographic equipment. This includes the spectral wave Doppler, color Doppler, and continuous-wave Doppler instruments. In the 1980s, Kazunori Baba invented 3-dimension ultrasound technology, which he would use to capture 3D images of a fetus later that decade. In 1989, Daniel Lichtenstein incorporated general and lung sonography in ICUs. The technology would become more sophisticated in the 1990s (Woo, 2002). For example, it gained 4D capabilities and became useful in carrying out biopsies.
Devices using ultrasound technology have increased number over the past decade, which has significantly enhanced the applicability of the technology. Currently, the technology has become mobile, with even Apple developing a telesonography app for its iPhone. Sonography has also found its usage outside of this planet. For instance, NASA has a virtual guidance program that enables non-sonographers to conduct ultrasounds while in space. From the physical lab to the soccer pitch, to the hospital, and now into space, the capacity of ultrasound will only grow in the future.
Woo, J. (2002). A short history of the development of ultrasound in obstetrics and gynecology. Retrieved 26 March 2014 from http://www.creatis.insa-lyon.fr/~cachard/master_is/Ultrasound_history.pdf