Professor Peter N.T. Wells, PhD, DSc, FIPEM, FInstP, FIEE, FEng, after education at a highly respected Bristol school worked briefly at the General electric® company. He soon realised that medical physics presented a much more worthwhile career and he participated in the course held at the General Hospital in Bristol by Dr Herbert Freundlich.
A treatment for Meniere's disease was under evaluation by the local ENT surgeons. It involved irradiating the semi-circular canals with ultrasound. The existing equipment was unsatisfactory and Peter Wells was given the task to investigate the controlled production of ultrasound. He successfully developed not only a stable generator but also a variety of measurement techniques, some of which have been rediscovered several times since, and was awarded an M.Sc. for his thesis. His Ph.D. came from investigation into the biological effects of ultrasound, involving the study of nerve conduction in the giant squid axon. At that time interest in diagnostic uses of ultrasound was increasing and the application ideas were only limited by the available technology. Peter Wells was responsible for one of the World’s first articulated arm B-scanner in the world. He also constructed the first water-immersion automated ultrasonic breast scanner and developed the first catheter mounted endosonographic probe outside of Japan. In cardiology an accurate time-position recording instrument was built. Most of these devices were in clinical uses for many years until commercially available equipment appeared to replace them.
In 1969 he was one of three authors to demonstrate the feasibility of pulsed Doppler and became the first person to describe the directivities of Doppler transducers. His research on the applications of doppler ultrasound has continued until this date. His other work included dynamic focusing with annular array transducers, acoustic speckle and the measurement of blood flow volume rate and the quantitation of Doppler blood flow signals
Gray-scale ultrasound was reinvented in the 1970s and Professor Wells was again at the forefront providing sound experimental reasons for its implementation. The boom in diagnostic use which followed was accompanied by an increasing awareness of the possibility of biological hazard resulting from scans. Again help was forthcoming in the form of a chart derived from a review of world literature. This chart formed the basis of several national standards and contributed significantly to the "100milliwatt guideline".
After a brief spell as Professor of Medical physics in Cardiff Peter Wells replaced Herbert Freundlich on retirement as Head of the Bristol Medical Physics Department. He was later appointed General Manager of the Medical Sciences Sub-Unit in Bristol and was very active both in stimulating research activities locally and as an honorary Professor in Radiodiagnosis in the University of Bristol. Additionally he provided lectures and advice to institutions and organisations throughout the world. In 1978 he was made Doctor of Science at the Bristol University.
His contribution to medical ultrasound has been outstanding, and this has been recognised by the honorary memberships and fellowships conferred upon him. Professor Wells has been President of the British Medical Ultrasound Society, the British Institute of Radiology, and the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Radiologists, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, the Australasian College of Physical Scientists and Engineers in Medicine, an Honorary Member of the British Medical Ultrasound Society, and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. Professor Wells is also a member of the Scientific Advisory Council of the Jefferson Ultrasound Research and Education Institute (JUREI). He has contributed to more than 15 books and 250 scientific articles, and is Editor-in-Chief of Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology, the official journal of the World Federation for Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology. He was recently conferred the Ian Donald Award for Technical Merit by the International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology (ISUOG) in 1998.
Professor Wells is presently Head of the Department of Medical Physics and Bioengineering of the United Bristol Healthcare NHS Trust, honorary Director of the Centre for Physics and Engineering Research in Medicine in the University of Bristol, and an Honorary Professor in the University. His current research included the development of ultrasonic biomedical microimaging techniques (confocal acoustic microscopy) and telepresence ultrasound systems.
adapted in part from a biographical citation which appeared in the British Medical Ultrasound Society Bulletin no. 44, 1987.
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