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John M. Reid

John M. Reid, PhD

Professor Emeritus,
School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

School of Biomedical Engineering, Science & Health Systems

Website: History of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology


Professor John M. Reid was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1926. He received the B.S. (1950) and M.S. (1957) degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Minnesota, and the Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania (1965).

Cover of the March issue of 'ELECTRONICS' in 1955

Cover of the March issue of "ELECTRONICS" in 1955 reporting Wild and Reid's work on ultrasound diagnosis of Breast tumors.
A 15 MHz hand-held scanner was in use. Left: John Wild, Right: John Reid.
A similar setup can be seen in their first paper in 1952 in Science, "Application of Echo-Ranging Techniques to the Determination of Structure of Biological Tissues"

Reid worked on medical diagnosis with ultrasound at the University of Minnesota and St. Barnabas Hospital, Minneapolis from 1950-1957, where he worked on tissue characterization with ultrasound and developed the first clinical ultrasonic scanner with John J. Wild. Reid was engaged through a grant from the National Cancer Institute as the sole engineer to build and operate Wild's ultrasonic apparatus. Wild and Reid built amongst other ultrasonic devices, a linear B-mode instrument, a formidable technical task In those days, in order fully to visualise tumours by sweeping from side to side through breast lumps. In May 1953 this instrument produced a real-time image at 15 M/C of a 7mm cancer of the nipple in situ along with A-mode differential sonic reflections. Basing on technology from the world war II radar, Reid devised important circuitry to compensate for the attenuation of ultrasound in tissues by setting the receiver gain as a function of the tissue depth. Similar mechanisms were deployed in most medical ultrasound systems that followed.

Reid completed his MS thesis in 1957 which compared the theory for focusing radiators to experiment. In addition he had importantly verified that dynamic focusing was practical. He subsequently left Wild's laboratory and pursued his doctoral degree at the University of Pennsylvania. From 1957-1965 he worked on echocardiography, producing and using the first such system in the United States, with cardiologist Dr. Claude Joyner. This required developing design and construction methods for making ceramic pulse-echo transducers and measuring their performance. Reid was responsible for constructing Joyner's equipments, which could display both the EKG and echocardiogram simultaneously. He also worked out methods for measuring the ultrasonic power levels used by diagnostic machines using a radiation force balance, and developed methods for making ultrasonic scattering measurements in tissues.

Reid became a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Washington, Seattle, from 1966-71 where he continued the tissue research, which culminated in measurement of the scattering cross section of red blood cells, with Professor Rubens Sigelman and Dr. K. Kirk Shung. In addition, he worked on the continuous wave and pulse Doppler and duplex imaging devices with the Donald Baker team. He participated in forming the Institute of Applied Physiology and Medicine in Seattle with Dr. Merrill Spencer, and also was affiliated with the Providence Hospital from 1971-1981, while working on measurements, gas bubble detection, Doppler imaging and other ultrasonic developments.

He also participates in the standards writing work of the International Electrotechnical Commission, as a United States delegate to their ultrasonics subcommittees and working groups since 1981, funded by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association and the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine.

In 1981 Reid held the Calhoun Chair of Biomedical Engineering at Drexel University and became an Adjunct Professor of Radiology at Thomas Jefferson University, both in Philadelphia, where the work on ultrasonic diagnosis of tissue has continued to date. This is a Program Project funded by an NIH grant and involves nine projects with other professors at Drexel and Thomas Jefferson. He was Acting Director of the Biomedical Engineering and Science Institute at Drexel University for two years, and although retired from the Calhoun Chair in 1994, is currently an Emeritus and a Research Professor at Drexel, a Professor of Radiology at Thomas Jefferson University and an Affiliate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Washington. His current activities include directing an N.I.H. Program Project grant with other faculty members at Drexel and Thomas Jefferson Hospital on diagnosis of human breast cancer using ultrasound, consulting and writing on medical ultrasound systems and transducers. He is also involved in the investigation of the propagation and scattering of ultrasound waves in biological tissues (tissue characterization), and the study of cardiovascular system structure and function through the ultrasound doppler effect.

John M. Reid and John J. Wild

Professor Reid is a Life Fellow of the IEEE, a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America and of the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, whose Pioneer award he received in 1979, and of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. He received the Career Achievement Award of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society in 1993, and the Pioneer Award of the Society of Vascular Technologists in 1994. A special issue of the journal "Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology" dedicated to him, and containing papers by his students and collaborators was published in 1994. In 2000, Professor Reid was elected Honorary Member of the World Federation for Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology.

More details


  • Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, Electrical Engineering, 1965
  • M.S., University of Minnesota, Electrical Engineering, 1957
  • B.S., University of Minnesota, Electrical Engineering, 1950

Research Interests

Diagnostic ultrasound, wave propagation and scattering in inhomogeneous media, imaging, instrumentation.