A celebration of The Glasgow School of Art’s contribution to the history and development of medical obstetrics ultrasound

05 OCT 2019 – 31 OCT 2019

Arguably the most important technological development to affect the lives of women in the last 50 or so years has been diagnostic obstetric ultrasound. In the late 50s and early 60s, Glasgow led the world in its development. A unique collaboration between clinical obstetrics, engineering, electronics and design expertise created the first prototypes and production models of ultrasound scanners for use in routine obstetrics scanning in Glasgow hospitals.

Initially adapted from an industrial application for checking pressure vessels, the development of obstetrics ultrasound devices faced many challenges around, e.g., adaptation of the technology for its new purpose, matching the apparatus to the perceptual faculties of the human user, imaging the developing foetus in its mother’s womb, and the design of the equipment to be acceptable, usable and commercially viable for manufacture.

The exhibition documented the early Glasgow pioneers of ultrasound, particularly the pivotal role of design in the development process through the work of the then graduating designer, Dugald Cameron, in his first paid commission, in transforming the industrial apparatus into humane and manufacturable designs that helped revolutionise the clinical management of antenatal treatment and care. It provided an insight into the thinking processes and innovative skills of the young designer.

The exhibition brought the story up to date by showcasing current related research at GSA including a fascinating oral record of women’s lived experiences of ultrasound during their pregnancy in 1960s Glasgow, a critical examination of drawing practice in the art academy and its role in informing design, as well as the imaginings of future applications of the technology by GSA’s young product design engineering students, a Glasgow School of Art and University of Glasgow joint programme co-established by Cameron in 1987.

After a period in Industry, Cameron returned to GSA to become the Head of Product Design, Head of Design and then its Director between 1991 and 1999.

This exhibition was curated by:
Professor Alastair Macdonald, Senior Researcher, School of Design at GSA

Supported by:
The Glasgow School of Art, The Royal Society of Edinburgh (Arts and Humanities Small Research Grant) and a GSA Research Development Grant

Text by GSA Exhibitions.

Related Posts