Ralph Edward Meyerdirk was born in Milford, Iowa, in November 1925. Meyerdirk enlisted in the Navy and spent 3 years in the Pacific theater of World War II. After his return from the war Ralph Meyerdirk married his high school sweet heart Margaret ("Peg") and pursued his love of music attending Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. In 1949 he graduated with a bachelors degree in music and completed his masters degree at the University of Colorado in 1950. While at school in Colorado he met and made a great friend, William (Bill) Wright, they were both members of the Amateur Ham-Radio Club. However, with a job offer as a music teacher in Perham Minnesota, Meyerdirk and Peg reluctantly decided to leave Colorado to start a family and take on a teaching career.

Pioneering the Articulated-arm Ultrasound scanner
and bringing it to market

Meyerdirk and Bill Wright continued to stay in touch, via amateur radio, through the '50's. Then in 1959 Wright called Meyerdirk to tell him that he had been engaged to help Dr. Joseph Holmes of the University of Colorado Medical School. Holmes was leading a project for the research of ultrasound funded by a $15,000 grant from the U.S. Public Health Services. Wright, knowing Meyerdirk's acumen to design, build or repair just about anything electronic, invited him to be part of the research team to work on an ultrasound project in Boulder Colorado. Meyerdirk and his wife had fallen in love with Colorado during their short stay to complete his master's studies, so he and Peg packed up the family of four, quit his teaching job and moved back to Colorado. Bill Wright was a special part of the Meyerdirk family and was know as "Uncle Bill" through the years.

In 1960, with the blessing of Holmes, Wright and Meyerdirk opened a small commercial research lab on Pearl Street in Boulder. The space was simply too small and they expanded to a somewhat larger facility at 1114 Francis Street in Longmont Colorado where they both lived. In 1962, after working continously for two and half years on a project for inventing a new compound contact ultrasound scanning device, they incorporated under the name Physionic Engineering, Inc. and started production of the first scanners. Such articulated arm compound contact scanning device was the first in the world market. Wright was design engineer and president of the company and Meyerdirk was vice-president and in charge of productions. Shares and stocks of the company were made available to the public. Productions and demand quickly outgrew this facility and they decided to build their own custom production facility on Florida Street in South Longmont.

Earliest Wright-Meyerdirk scanner console with one of the first images from a
practical commercial articulated-arm scanner. Portability was also emphasized.

In 1966 Picker Corporation distributed the Physionic Scanner for Meyerdirk and Wright. In 1967 Picker approached the two with a proposal to purchase controlling interest of Physionic Engineering, Inc. Ralph and Bill accepted the offer as well as executive positions with Picker managing the Longmont facility.

Ralph Meyerdirk (right) with visitor from Japan and Picker executive in front of the
Picker facility, Florida Street, Longmont, 1968. Originally this was the Physionic Inc. building built by
Wright and Meyerdirk. The signage on the building was changed to Picker shortly before this photo was taken.

The business continued to expand and once again the facility could no longer handle the production. Picker made the decision to move production to a facility on the East Coast and offered Bill and Ralph positions to move, but the partners decided to cash out their shares and stay in Colorado. The articulated-arm scanner continued to develop at Picker and became the most important and most popular design in static ultrasound scanners throughout the world.

After selling to Picker, Ralph Meyerdirk became very involved in the local church and community and opened a men's clothing stre. Meyerdirk's four children all worked at the store during high school and after they went off to college Meyerdirk returned to the medical field working for Staodyn as a quality assurance engineer. Ironically, the Staodyn production facility was located next door to the building he and Bill Wright had built years before.

Ralph Meyerdirk passed away in October, 2004.

Picture of Mr. Ralph Meyerdirk and text are courtesy of Mr. Monte Meyerdirk.

Back to History of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology.