Thomas Graham Brown (1933-2019), engineer who developed the first practical medical ultrasound machine, to pioneer ultrasound diagnoses in obstetrics and gynaecology.
Tom Brown was responsible for converting the idea of using ultrasound scanning for medical purposes into a practical proposition.
Tom Brown trained as a Research & Development Engineer with Kelvin & Hughes Ltd, the Glasgow scientific instrument company founded by Lord Kelvin. He worked on the development of ultrasound equipment for testing welds in large pressure vessels. When he was 23, he learned that Professor Ian Donald was attempting to use one of the firm's Flaw Detectors to distinguish between fibroids and cysts and he offered to help. It became clear to Tom that some form of pictorial imaging was needed and he believed that it might be possible to make radar-like images of internal organs. Brown conceived and designed the low cost prototype which was to be the first direct contact ultrasound scanner, and had it built onto a borrowed hospital bed table in the firm's workshops. The company applied for patent protection with Brown as Inventor.
The prototype was made available to Professor Donald, assisted by Dr John MacVicar, in early 1957. They quickly realised its potential, and began exploring its clinical applications, which led to the Donald, MacVicar and Brown Lancet paper in June 1958, less than two years after the initial contact. Kelvin & Hughes insisted that the firm, including Brown, should remain in the background and encouraged Donald to become the public face of the project.
|Born in Glasgow, Scotland on 10th April||1933|
|11||Entered Allan Glen's School, Glasgow||1944|
|17||Technical apprentice, Kelvin & Hughes Ltd, Glasgow||1951|
|23||Research & Development engineer, Kelvin & Hughes Ltd, Glasgow||1956|
|23||Contacted Ian Donald to offer assistance in use of A-scope Flaw Detectors||1956|
|23||Conceived and designed prototype direct-contact ultrasound scanner||1956|
|25||Applied for British Patent No. 863874 "Improvements in and relating to the examination by ultrasonics of bodies having a non-planar surface" made on 28th April||1958|
|25||Married Geira Stevens||1958|
|25||The Lancet paper by Donald, MacVicar and Brown published on 7th June||1958|
|26||Designed fully automatic mechanical scanning machine||1959|
|27||British Patent 863874 published 29th March||1961|
|30||Head of department, Kelvin & Hughes||1963|
|30||Took "Diasonograph" scanner close to production readiness||1964|
|32||Engineer with Honeywell||1965|
|34||Engineer, Nuclear Enterprises Ltd, 2D medical scanners||1967|
|39||Research Fellow in Medical Physics, University of Edinburgh||1970|
|40||Team leader for multiplanar 3D scanner, Sonicaid, Livingston, West Lothian||1973|
|44||Production of 3D scanner||1977|
|66||Quality Manager, Radiological Protection Centre, St George's Hospital, London||1999|
|69||"Retired" to Scotland||2002|
|72||Founded NoStrain Ltd to address musculoskeletal disorders affecting sonographers||2005|
|74||Honorary Fellow ad eundem of Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists||2007|
|Awarded Ian Donald medal for technical development|
|81||Inducted into the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame||2014|
|81||Honorary Fellow of IESIS||2014|
|85||Cited in motion put by Angela Constance, MSP to Scottish Parliament on 11th December in the 60th Anniversary year of The Lancet paper.||2018|
|86||Died on 13 December||2019|
The significant breakthrough in the application of flaw detection equipment for medical diagnosis would not have happened in Scotland without the engineering genius of Tom Brown, the unsung hero of the invention of medical ultrasound.
Investigation of Abdominal Masses by Pulsed Ultrasound. The Lancet, 7 June 1958.
Imaging and Imagining the Fetus: The Development of Obstetric Ultrasound Malcolm Nicolson and John E E Fleming. 2013.
Development of ultrasonic scanning techniques in Scotland 1956-1979 Tom Brown. 1999. Accessed 28 September 2014.
Download: Tom Brown acceptance speech delivered by his granddaughter Emma Hutton. Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame, James Watt Dinner, 3 October 2014
TO CITE THIS PAGE: MLA style: "Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame". engineeringhalloffame.org. Date of viewing. http://www.engineeringhalloffame.org/profile-brown.html