Dugald Cameron and Ultrasonics

Volunteer and GSA Textile Design student Megan Allan has been working with us recently, to catalogue the collection of former GSA Director, Dugald Cameron.  To tie in with the launch of the ‘Ultrasonic Glasgow’ exhibition tonight which includes Dugald’s work, Megan has written a blog on the collection, its significance for the development of ultrasound machines and how she found out more about the material.  The material will be going live on our catalogue soon, and we’ll let you know when it does.

It has been a pleasure to work with the team at the GSA Archives and Collections to catalogue the work of Dugald Cameron, Director of Glasgow School of Art 1991-1999. Dugald’s collection reflects his time as a student at GSA, where he first entered on the junior non-diploma course in 1957. He then gained his diploma in 1961 and post diploma in 1962, specialising in Industrial Design. A Diploma course, similar to what we now know as an Undergraduate Degree, began with two years general study where students would participate in every discipline across the school, followed by an opportunity to specialise in one subject.


Self portrait, 1958.  DC 091/1/2/5

To help me differentiate between time frames and date each piece in the collection, Dugald kindly joined us to discuss the work accompanied by one of his former students, Professor Alastair MacDonald. He talked us through the years and stacks of sketches, technical drawings and airbrush paintings with captivating tales. It is clear Dugald holds fond memories of studying drawing under the guidance of William Drummond Bone during his general years. He and his classmates were encouraged to draw every day, as he still does now, producing self-portraits and studies of classic paintings. This progressed to life drawing and working from still life arrangements with a focus on perspective and capturing proportions. It is compelling to see Dugald’s skills progress throughout the body of work and his understanding of design becomes apparent as he moves on to specialise in Industrial Design. His personal passion for flying and interest in aircrafts is also evident as charming sketches of planes appear along the edges of large scale technical drawings.

Life drawing, c1959.  DC 091/1/2/41


 Slide projector project, 1961. DC 091/2/2


The pivotal point of Dugald’s collection is the work produced during his post-diploma year. After being introduced to Tom Brown, an employee of Glasgow based engineering firm Kelvin Hughes, Dugald began working with them to design an ultrasound machine. The machine was to be used in monitoring the health and development of babies during pregnancy and Dugald encouraged the firm to consider the patients experience, in this case pregnant women, at the very early stages of design. The work produced was innovative, pioneering and essential to its industry, balancing the user friendly function of the product while addressing the desire for comfort.

Alastair MacDonald is currently creating an exhibition and publication regarding the design of ultrasound machines in Glasgow and it was wonderful to hear him talk about the significance and influence of Dugald’s work. Dugald began teaching at GSA not long after completing his post-diploma and in 1970 was appointed to a Chair at the Technische Hogeschool, Netherlands. However he politely declined this position in favour of staying at GSA to become the Senior Lecturer of Industrial Design, leading to Head of Design in 1982 and later Director of the School. During his time at GSA he made major contributions to the creation and development of the product design and engineering course.


Ultrasound machine airbrush drawing, 1962. DC 091/3/3/1

For me, as a current student on the textile design course at GSA, discovering and exploring Dugald’s work has reinforced the importance of being a focused, knowledgeable and considerate designer. Working at the GSA Archives and Collections has been a wonderful experience, providing me with a fantastic insight into the hard work, expertise and attention to detail dedicated to running the department. I look forward to seeing some of Dugald’s collection on display during Alastair’s exhibition.

Ultrasonic Glasgow, ‘A celebration of The Glasgow School of Art’s contribution to the history and development of medical obstetrics ultrasound’ will be on display in the Reid Ground Floor Corridor from the 5th to 31st October.  More information is available at http://www.gsa.ac.uk/life/gsa-events/events/u/ultrasound-exhibition/