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Author: Terry J. DuBose
Title: Polybiography of Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Publication info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
April 2001

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Source: Polybiography of Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Terry J. DuBose

vol. 4, no. 1, April 2001
Article Type: Article
PDF: Download full PDF [30kb ]

Polybiography of Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Terry J. DuBose

This article describes the use of archived internet email ListServs and WWWeb sites to publish historical articles about the recent development of Diagnostic Medical Sonography. The historical web site and ListServ provide for formal historical articles, images, photographs, commentary, and discussion of those items in a process called a "polybiography"... the history by many of the many events. The site is designed to be a searchable repository of "raw material" for those with an interest in the history of medical ultrasound.



Diagnostic Medical Sonography, often referred to as "ultrasound", is one of the newest and fastest growing diagnostic imaging modalities. Most people today know Sonography from intrauterine fetal images or sonograms. It is a very safe and useful medical tool that was first attempted after W.W.II using surplus, nondestructive testing, sonar equipment. These early valve-tube electronics were too slow for the very short distances and high resolution required for medical imaging. With the development of microchips, sonography has made huge advances with each new microprocessor. Many individuals around the world have contributed to these incremental advances.

The American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) was the first "... professional organization devoted to ultrasound." [2] "The AIUM began in 1951 when 24 physiatrist attending the American Congress of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation met in a hotel room in Denver, CO to discuss the necessity for organizing a sub-group of that Congress. However, we [AIUM] were not incorporated until March 7, 1975." [3]

Diagnostic Medical Sonography became an established profession with the organization of the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (SDMS) in 1969 when six individuals (Joan Baker, Marilyn Ball, Margaret Byrne, James Dennon, Raylene Husak, and L.E. Schnitzer). formed the American Society of Ultrasound Technical Specialists (later renamed the SDMS). 2, [4] The SDMS facilitated the implementation of the first certifying examinations for non-physician "Sonographers" and physician "Sonologists" by forming the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) [5] in 1975.2 Organized diagnostic sonography is less than 30 years old.

The relatively recent and rapid development of the profession means that most of the inventors and founding individuals are still living. This presents a unique opportunity to document this early history. Individuals involved such as Don Baker on ultrasound Doppler (USA), Stewart Campbell on obstetrical sonography (Great Britain), and Rokuro Uchida on ultrasonic equipment (Japan) are but three of hundreds if not thousands of contributors to the field of Diagnostic Sonography.


In response to this opportunity, [6] and the SDMS have collaboratively established the WWWeb site "Ultrasound-History Forum & Archives" [7]. The WWWeb site historical content is made up of formal articles, streaming audio/video interviews and lectures, photographs, sonographs, and an archived ListServ forum. The intent is to give those who were involved with early sonography an opportunity to tell their stories. This historical forum will be a threaded, searchable archive to facilitate individuals adding their own recollections and even differing views of an event.

An example of the polybiography can be seen at the History of Ultrasound web site in reference 6. This author is also aware of two spontaneous of polybiographies occurring. These were two different sets of siblings who corresponded via the Internet and began discussing their remembrances. In each group one of the siblings began to archive all the email messages, creating a small family polybiography.

Another polybiography has just been announced by The Center for Humane Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences online, Michigan State University. The polybiography is manifest as the H-Disability discussion group and is described as:

This discussion group serves not only to give historians an opportunity to exchange ideas, syllabi, scholarly work, and archival sources but will attract other historians of all specialtiess to the field. The H-Disability discussion group allows disability scholars to compare and contrast the experience of disability across time and space, including American, European and non-Western contexts. [8]

While the H-Disability discussion group does not refer to itself as a polybiography this collection of historical materials do fit the definition.

.03. Discussion

This Internet based historical archive has been referred to as a "polybiography" because it is both biographical and autobiographical; the many individuals involved write the history of the many events leading to contemporary medical ultrasound. The resulting archive is expected to be similar to an oral history where an editor records and transcribes the various stories into a cohesive narrative. However, the oral history will have a slant due to the selection of participants and how they are edited. The polybiography will avoid a bias or slant from an editor because the participants are self-selected. The stories will be in the unedited words of the individuals who made the history. The primary problem anticipated will be the differences in individuals' writing styles, and a possibly confused organization. These issues will be addressed as the project develops.

The polybiography is uniquely adapted to the Internet and would be virtually impossible with out the Internet. Without the global connections it would be difficult to locate all the individuals who contributed to the development of sonography. By the use of the Internet anyone who has a story to tell about sonographic developments will be able to add to the history. This will allow those who were assistants to contribute, as well as the luminaries; where as with the traditional oral history, the editor might not locate some relatively minor, relocated participants.

The concept of the "polybiography" was first presented at the Annual Conference 2000 of the American Association of History & Computing in Waco, Texas. [9] The original article was titled "Poly-autobiography of Diagnostic Medical Sonography", but during the discussion following the presentation it was suggested that, while the concept was thought to be a unique use of the Internet and WWWeb, the term "polybiography" would be more appropriate and descriptive.


1. Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program (Accredited CAAHEP), University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 4301 West Markham Street Mail Stop 563, Little Rock, Arkansas 72205;, last access: February 21, 2001.

2. Baker JP; "Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers: Focus On The Future"; SDMS/Lippincott-Raven 1995; p. 2-28.

3. Carmine Valente [], Executive Director, American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, personal communication, February 27, 2001.

4. Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (SDMS);; last access: February 21, 2001

5. American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS);; last access: February 21, 2001s

6. Women's Health Web site;; last access: February 21, 2001

7. SDMS &; Ultrasound-History Forum & Archives:; last access: February 21, 2001

8. Email Announcement provided by Hamilton BD, Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2001 14:49:39 -0500 (Posted by Jeri L. Reed) ANNOUNCING H-DISABILITY H-NET LIST ON THE HISTORY OF DISABILITIES Sponsored by H-Net, Humanities & Social Sciences On-line, Michigan State University.

9. DuBose TJ; "A Poly-Autobiography of Sonography"; Proceedings American Association of History & Computing, Waco, Texas April 13-15, 2000., last access: February 21, 2001.

Terry J. DuBose, M.S., RDMS, APS
Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program [1]
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences