Friday, January 20, 2017

The Inventor of the MRI Machine


Raymond Vahan Damadian is the Armenian-American medical doctor who invented the first MR (Magnetic Resonance) Scanning Machine. He proposed the MR body scanner in 1969. The journal Science published the results of his first experiments in March 1971. Damadian applied to the US Patent Office in 1972 and his patent for the world's first MRI was granted in 1974. He performed the first full body scan of a human in 1977 to diagnose cancer. Damadian's method is now known as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The prototype of Damadian's MR scanner was given to the Smithsonian and is now on temporary display at the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Ohio.

Damadian's research began when he was a postgraduate student at Harvard University. There he explored using magnetism and radio waves to look into the body as an option to surgery.

His experiments with sodium and potassium in living cells led him to his first nuclear magnetic resonance experiments.

Damadian discovered that tumors and normal tissue can be distinguished in vivo by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) because of their prolonged relaxation times, both T1 (spin-lattice relaxation) or T2 (spin-spin relaxation).

Damadian also collaborated with Wilson Greatbach to develop an MRI-compatible pacemaker.

Dr Damadian received a National Medal of Technology in 1988 and was inducted in the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1989. In 2001, he received the Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award as "the man who invented the MRI scanner."

In 1998, the University of Wisconsin-Madison described Damadian as ‘one of the inventors of magnetic resonance imaging’ and awarded him an honorary doctorate.

In 2003, the Nobel Prize for Medicine went to the breakthrough field of diagnostic MRI scanning. It was shared by two scientists, Dr Paul Lauterbur and Sir Peter Mansfield, both of whom contributed to the field, but the prize did not go to Dr. Damadian, even though the prize could have been shared by up to three persons. Damadian was the first to point out, in a landmark 1971 paper in Science (based on experiments involving lab rats), that MRI could be used to distinguish between healthy and cancerous tissue. Lauterbur’s notes indicate that he was inspired by Damadian’s work.

Dr Damadian was disappointed that the Nobel Prize Committee overlooked him. He deserved recognition because as he said, "I came up with the idea for the MRI... I built the first machine and if there was to be a Nobel prize for medicine for the MRI, I thought it should go to me."

Damadian attempted to persuade the Nobel Prize Committee to change the decision, but later changed his attitude. "I've had time to reflect, and I must say, now that I have learnt how easily the Nobel can be manipulated, I have lost almost all respect for the prize. I can even tell you that I am not sure I want it any more."

Damadian heard that Dr Lauterbur did not want to share the Nobel prize with him. Lauterbur was theorizing chemical origins of life on earth and was aware of Damadian's creationist views. Damadian's faith in the just judgement of the Creator is expressed in his statement: "And there is a judge that he is going to have to answer to one day, the same judge we all answer to, and so I grieve for him [Lauterbur]."

Raymond Damadian believes that the Earth is only 6000 years old. His position as a Young Earth Creationist caused a great deal of controversy and some believe that the Nobel Prize Committee denied him the prize because of his "religious" views. Damadian heard the rumors, but said: "Before this happened, nobody ever said to me 'They will not give you the Nobel Prize for Medicine because you are a creation scientist.' He added, "If people were actively campaigning against me because of that, I never knew it."

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