Transient cavitation is a discrete phenomenon that relies on the existence of stabilized nuclei, or pockets of gas within a host fluid, for its genesis. A convenient descriptor for assessing the likelihood of transient cavitation is the threshold pressure, or the minimum acoustic pressure necessary to initiate bubble growth and subsequent collapse. An automated experimental apparatus has been developed to determine thresholds for cavitation produced in a fluid by short tone bursts of ultrasound at 0.76, 0.99, and 2.30 MHz. A fluid jet was used to convect potential cavitation nuclei through the focal region of the insonifying transducer. Potential nuclei tested include 1-microns polystyrene spheres, microbubbles in the 1- to 10-microns range that are stabilized with human serum albumin, and whole blood constituents. Cavitation was detected by a passive acoustical technique that is sensitive to sound scattered from cavitation bubbles. Measurements of the transient cavitation threshold in water, in a fluid of higher viscosity, and in diluted whole blood are presented. These experimental measurements of cavitation thresholds elucidate the importance of ultrasound, host fluid, and nuclei parameters in determining these thresholds. These results are interpreted in the context of an approximate analytical theory for the prediction of the onset of cavitation.