Donald W. Baker, former professor in UW Bioengineering and in Electrical Engineering, and inventor whose device has enabled life-saving imaging for millions of patients, passed away Feb. 27, 2018.
By refining ultrasound into one of medicine’s most vital, cost-effective diagnostic tools available, Dr. Baker revolutionized the way medicine is performed around the world. In the late 1960s, Dr. Baker took early vague, fuzzy ultrasound images and discovered how to transform them into high-resolution, real-time images that reveal the inner structures of the body, from blood pumping through the heart to a fetus in the womb. His idea was to use pulsed Doppler technology, rather than continuous sound waves. Not only did the technique provide clear images, the method was completely non-invasive.
In 2016, Dr. Baker was inducted as an inaugural member of the Washington Life Science Hall of Fame. The honor recognizes pioneers who have had the greatest impact on life sciences in Washington state. In a 2016 interview during his induction, he gave the following advice to young entrepreneurs: “You can’t predict what issues you may end up having to face, so the engineer needs to devote their life to constant learning.” Watch the 2016 Life Science Washington Hall of Fame interview with Dr. Baker.
In 2002, the University of Washington and the UW Alumni Association awarded Dr. Baker their highest honor: the Alumnus Summa Laude Dignatus Award. He also has been honored with the Joseph Homes Pioneer Award of the American Institute of Ultrasound. His early inventions now reside in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.