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We have been developing a scanning acoustic microscope (SAM) system for medicine and biology featuring quantitative measurement of ultrasonic parameters of soft tissues. In the present study, we propose a new concept sound speed microscopy that can measure the thickness and speed of sound in the tissue using fast Fourier transform of a single pulsed wave instead of burst waves used in conventional SAM systems. Two coronary arteries were frozen and sectioned approximately 10 mum in thickness. They were mounted on glass slides without cover slips. The scanning time of a frame with 300 X 300 pixels was 90 s and two- dimensional distribution of speed of sound was obtained. The speed of sound was 1680 plusmn 30 m/s in the thickened intima with collagen fiber, 1520 plusmn 8 m/s in the lipid deposition underlying the fibrous cap, and 1810 plusmn 25 m/s in a calcified lesion in the intima. These basic measurements will help in the understanding of echo intensity and pattern in intravascular ultrasound images.