B-Mode Breast prototype echo-graph

B-Mode Breast prototype echo-graph

Usage conditions apply
This instrument is a real-time, breast and body-surface ultrasound scanner. Built after success of "transducer-in-a-can." Used to record the first image of a small cancer of the breast in situ in May, 1953. It was use between 1953 and 1965. John Wild and John Reid believed ultrasound could be used to image living human tissue and distinguish between different types of tissue, including cancer. After attempting to image the brain, the breast was selected because, as Wild wrote, it was "a convenient source of small tumors from which to confirm and developed optimum acoustic instrumentation and techniques from other cancer sites." Wild's goal was to create mechanical instrumentation for examining body sites with high rate of cancer including breast, lower gastro-intestinal tract from anus, cervix, uterus, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, lung, even eye, and thyroid, and bladder.
To test the feasibility and perfect his imaging equipment, Wild started with easily accessed "body-surface" areas, such as the breast. Wild and Reid had already successfully tested A-mode, or one dimensional, imaging of the breast in which the "image" was a time-amplitude wave. The success of those machines in detecting tissue abnormalities encouraged Reid to construct a B-mode, or two-dimensional, real-time imaging machine that produced the time, amplitude, and location of the echo. Real-time imaging was considered essential on a living patient whose lungs and other body parts would be involuntarily moving during the procedure. The transducer’s frequency (15mc) required the sound head to be within 4cm of the tissue being imaged. Thus, the patient was examined while laying down and the instrument would also act to compress the breast.
John Wild and John Reid constructed a multi-purpose clinical display unit in 1951 to be used with multiple short range and hand-held instruments. The display unit, not collected here, was comprised of a power source, oscilloscope, amplifier, and any other technology required for specific body imaging. Most instruments collected in this accession group were created to be portable, hand-held, and connected to the electronic display unit for use. The objects were hand-held and designed for specific body parts because the crystals' low frequency (15m/c) required the transducer to be within 4cm of the tissue to produce a clear image. The display unit also included a camera to capture ultrasound images produced on the oscilloscope. John Wild imagined the opportunity for "mass-screenings" using this portable display unit and small, hand-held attachments and envisioned their use for the regular screening of common cancer sites. Wild and Reid’s work, in the context of the many other doctors working in the same field across the world, provided a basis of knowledge that contributed to the rise of clinical ultrasound throughout the 1960s and into mainstream practice by the 1970s.
Before this portable, hand held device was invented, Wild and Reid created machines in which a woman would lay across a water bath with her breasts submerged in water. Tube-like transducers were placed at the bottom of the water bath. Wild and Reid abandoned this type of machine in favor of their multi-purpose clinical display unit with hand-held echoscope instruments specifically designed to connect to the unit and to image different body parts. An earlier model of a hand-held imaging device was used in 1951 but produced only A-mode images. The success of this and other early imaging machines encouraged Wild and Reid to develop a two-dimensional scanner.
Currently not on view
Object Name
B-Mode Breast and Body-Surface Ultrasound Scanner
breast and body-surface ultrasound scanner
date made
Associated Name
University of Minnesota
National Cancer Institute
National Institutes of Health
Wild, John J.
Wild, John J.
Reid, John M.
place made
United States: Minnesota, Minneapolis
Associated Place
United States: Minnesota, Minneapolis, St. Barnabas Hospital
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
rubber (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
sauter (overall material)
overall: 9.5 cm x 3 cm x 49 cm; 3 3/4 in x 1 3/16 in x 19 9/32 in
soundhead: 4.5 cm x 6 cm x 13.5 cm; 1 25/32 in x 2 3/8 in x 5 5/16 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Ellen L. C. Wild and Valerie C. Wild
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Medicine
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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