Ultrasound imaging pioneer Professor Peter Wells CBE FREng FRS FMedSci FLSW MAE will next week receive one of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s highest accolades, the Sir Frank Whittle medal, for his outstanding achievements in medical engineering over six decades.

Peter will receive the medal at the Academy’s AGM in London on the evening of Monday 15 September. Academy President Sir John Parker GBE FREng will make the presentation.

Peter’s early work was concerned with ultrasonic surgery. He developed a novel ultrasonic probe for the safe treatment of Meniere's disease and showed that there was a threshold for non-thermal biological damage. He also devised what was at the time the most accurate instrument for measuring low-power ultrasound.

He demonstrated the feasibility of pulsed Doppler and became the first person to describe the directivities of Doppler transducers. His other important pioneering work included the design of dynamic focusing with annular array transducers, acoustic speckle and the measurement of blood flow volume rate and Doppler blood flow signals.

From 1975 Peter was Chief Physicist at United Bristol Healthcare NHS Trust, one of the UK’s largest medical physics and bioengineering departments. He is now Distinguished Research Professor in the School of Engineering at Cardiff University and is still involved at the forefront of research, developing a new type of CT scanning which is likely to be used for ultrasonic breast screening, and would particularly benefit younger women. He is also in the very early stages of trying to develop a much faster form of ultrasound scanning.

Sir John Parker says: “Using engineering science, Peter Wells has pioneered the development of ultrasonics as a diagnostic and surgical tool, which has revolutionised clinical practice. His vision and determination in exploiting the advantages of ultrasound as a non-invasive imaging technique have contributed to huge improvements in healthcare and he is a worthy winner of the Whittle Medal.”

Professor Peter Wells says: “I hope to go on being involved in research forever. It’s the interest of the work – you don’t do it for the money. You do it because it’s interesting, and working in healthcare, you see some benefits. There’s a real satisfaction that when people have their ultrasound scans, they are using technology I helped to develop.”


Notes for Editors

  1. Named after Britain’s jet engine genius, the Sir Frank Whittle Medal is awarded an engineer resident in the UK whose outstanding and sustained achievements have had a profound impact on their engineering discipline.
  2. Royal Academy of Engineering. As the UK's national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering. We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK's role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK's world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook. We have four strategic challenges: Drive faster and more balanced economic growth; foster better education and skills; lead the profession; promote engineering at the heart of society.


For more information please contact:

Jane Sutton at the Royal Academy of Engineering
T: 020 7766 0636 
E: Jane Sutton


Kevin Leonard at Cardiff University
T: 029 2087 0997
E: Kevin Leonard

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