Beryl Benacerraf, the first woman to try pregnancy ultrasound in the United States

Beryl Benacerraf, 73, Dies; Pioneered the Use of Prenatal Ultrasound


Published: August 5, 1993

BETHEL AIR, Israel, Aug. 4— Beryl Benacerraf, in the early 50’s when medical progress began to be recognized as an art, was a pioneer when it came to the use of ultrasound in prenatal diagnosis and treatment.

She was born here on Aug. 6, 1935, to Russian emigres to be identified as Israeli by having her husband’s surname. In her early 40’s, after studying at Tel Aviv University and receiving her medical degree and a Ph.D., she became the first to try pregnancy ultrasound in the United States.

When Benacerraf was appointed chairwoman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Tel Aviv University Medical School, most of the Israeli hospitals that do ultrasound only had two-dimensional images, like those in Pregnancy, Vol. 3: the New Clinical Atlas, edited by Richard A. C. Green, Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1992.

“It became obvious that we really needed ultrasound in our obstetrics department,” she said.

Beryl Benacerraf first heard about ultrasound while attending medical school. After a brief stint as a resident in obstetrics at Tel Aviv, she began working as a resident under the direction of Dr. Y. Haim Yerushalmi, then chair of the hospital’s medical school. When she was admitted to the hospital on her first day of residency, Dr. Yerushalmi informed her that “all of the doctors he had seen so far were using plain ultrasound, which had been developed as an aid to gynecology.”

The images produced by ultrasound could not provide the kind of detail available in a three-dimensional picture, and, therefore, were limited in use. Benacerraf felt there was a need for better images.

The second time she saw ultrasound, on a

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