Biomedical Engineering Professor Emeritus Fredrick L. Thurstone Dies

Duke University engineering professor emeritus Fredrick L."Fritz" Thurstone, a pioneer of diagnostic ultrasound, died of cancer March 17 in Kissimmee, Fla. He was 73.

Thurstone moved to Duke in 1967 as one of the founding members of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. He is credited with playing a key role in Duke engineering's development and commercialization of ultrasound in medicine.

"Professor Thurstone was a leader in the field of ultrasound holography and a pioneer of the use of these techniques to develop the field of ultrasound imaging. He put our biomedical engineering program on the map and helped make it one of the best in the world," said Kristina M. Johnson, dean of Duke's Pratt School of Engineering.

Duke biomedical engineering professor Olaf von Ramm, who worked with Thurstone in developing the real-time phased array scanner for cardiology and radiology, said Thurstone "was a superb graduate mentor and teacher who brought a deep understanding of physical principles to engineering."

"Creative, dedicated to excellence and joyful about the research process, he was truly a pioneer in biomedical engineering at Duke and in diagnostic ultrasound," von Ramm said. "We admire his contributions and regret the loss of a good friend."

Born in Chicago, Thurstone spent his academic career in North Carolina. He received a B.S. degree in physics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1953 and master's and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering at North Carolina State University in 1957 and 1961, respectively. He joined the N.C. State electrical engineering faculty in 1956, and moved to Wake Forest University in 1962 as assistant professor and then associate professor and director of the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

At Duke, he held the rank of professor in the departments of biomedical engineering and radiology. He also served as director of graduate studies in biomedical engineering. Thurstone was a member of the American Institute of Ultrasonics in Medicine, and in 1983 received the Joseph H. Homes Pioneer Award for his contributions to the growth and development of diagnostic ultrasound.

He was also an active member of a number of other professional societies, including the Biomedical Engineering Society, the Institutes of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Acoustical Society of America, the Optical Society of America, Sigma Xi and Eta Kappa Nu. In 1997, after his retirement, the Duke Board of Trustees honored him with the title "professor emeritus."

Thurstone is survived by Arlene, his wife of 50 years, daughter Elizabeth, son Conrad and two grandsons, Robert and Christopher, all of Durham, and brother Robert, of Huntsville, Ala. The Thurstones also had a son, Eric, who died earlier.

A memorial service will be held at a later date in Rapid City, Mich.