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Thomas C Duggan

Research physicist who contributed to the development of medical ultrasound;

Research physicist who contributed to the development of medical ultrasound;

Born: July 9, 1932; Died: September 16, 2013.

Thomas C Duggan, who has died aged 81, was a medical physicist who contributed to the development of medical ultrasound. He was also a keen amateur sailor.

He and his twin brother Charlie were born in Bournemouth. He studied physics at the University of Birmingham, where he undertook his first research study, An Investigation into the Behaviour of Communication Systems in the Presence of Noise.

From 1955-59, he worked at GEC as a research physicist on the development of transistor circuits for computers and communication systems and later guided missile flight trials, employment he found unfulfilling.

More congenial work came with the offer of a joint appointment to Dr Lenihan's Western Regional Physics Department and the University of Glasgow, Department of Midwifery. But it wasn't only the job that attracted him - there was access to hills, mountains and the prospect of excellent sailing.

With Dr Lenihan, he studied lung mechanics in the Dept of Anaesthetics, Glasgow Royal Infirmary. In Midwifery he worked with Prof Ian Donald on neonatal respiration and, in collaboration with Dr James Willocks, to establish a precise method of using ultrasound to measure the diameter of the fetal head. This measurement opened a new understanding of the developing fetus.

In 1960 Margaret Glover joined Glasgow Royal Infirmary as a biochemist. When asked by a colleague how her social life was progressing, and what type of man she would like to meet, she replied that "nothing short of a superman" would do. Sometime later the colleague asked "Do you want to meet a superman?" and introduced her to Tom. They were married in 1961 and lived in Glasgow.

This was followed by a year of investigations and giving advice in diagnostic radiology and radiation protection. Then for about a year he was employed by S Smith & Sons (aka Kelvin Hughes) to work with Tom Brown on the development of ultrasound scanners.

In 1963, Prof R M Kenedi set up a bio-engineering unit in the University of Strathclyde and invited Tom Duggan to be his first staff member and to undertake a study of the mechanical characteristics of human tissues. This he did, and also ran a course Biomedical Engineering Methodology and Practice. After four years, he returned to Dr Lenihan's department as a senior physicist. Firstly, in the powered prosthesis research unit, secondly in 1971 in the Institute of Neurobiological Sciences. Then in 1973, he took over and, for many years, ran the world's first course on the principles and techniques of medical ultrasound imaging.

Tom Duggan's work in medical physics covered a range of aspects but he considered his work in medical ultrasound with Willocks and Donald and later on the course referred to above as the most rewarding.

In 1985 the Duggans moved to Cardross, which was prompted by the distressing loss of Margaret's allotment which became a building site. But, the result was a wonderful garden at Kirkton Cottage which opens to visitors under Scotland's Gardens Scheme.

Tom Duggan had a love of boats and sailing and became particularly keen to own a Shetlander; his first was Hildasay and later the larger Fivla.

He retired in 1989 and was soon wondering, as many retired people do "how did I ever find time to go to work?"

In conclusion, some words from son Angus' tribute: "His later years were blighted when the dreadful disease took hold and slowly robbed him of the hills, of sailing, his building, tinkering, activity, and his dignity. Let us forget that he was sometimes stubborn and mistaken. Let us remember him as 'a superman' having that combination of hand, eye, brain, and enthusiasm that enabled him to tackle with enjoyment and skill anything from plumbing to electronics, from analysing data to writing a scientific paper or delivering a course of lectures, working with Margaret to establish their beautiful garden, enjoying opera and jazz, relishing the building of tree houses to sailing his boat, or playing with his children and grandchildren."

He is survived by two younger brothers, his wife Margaret, sons Hugh, Peter and Angus and grandchildren James, Andrew and Katherine.

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