Dr. William Wolff died on August 20 at his home Manhattan. He was 94.
In the mid 1960′s Dr. Wolff, working with his colleague Dr. Hiromi Shinya at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, began studying how fiber optics and a long, soft, flexible tube might make it possible to see inside the entire length of the colon. Together they developed the first colonoscope.
In 1969, Dr. Shinya invented a wire snare and electrocautery making it possible for the team to remove polyps during a colonoscopy.
By 1973, Dr. Wolff and Dr. Shinya had performed over 2,000 colonoscopies in the Endoscopy Unit at Beth Israel, demonstrating that in skilled hands they could be done safely. Their use of a wire loop snare and electrocautery made it possible to remove most polyps during the colonoscopy itself and avoid risky abdominal surgery.
Last year more than 1.6 million colonoscopies were done in the United States, preventing tens of thousands of future colon cancers.