Inventor of the Week Archive
for a different Invention or Inventor
Magnetic Resonance (MR) Scanning Machine
Raymond V. Damadian, inventor of the Magnetic Resonance (MR)
scanning machine, was born in Forest Hills, New York in 1936.
He studied violin at the Julliard School of Music in New York
for eight years before winning a scholarship, at age 16, to
the University of Wisconsin. There he received a BS in mathematics
in 1956 and then turned to medicine, earning an MD in 1960
from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Bronx, NY).
After his internship, residency, and Fellowships at Washington
University and Harvard, Dr. Damadian
served for some time in the Air Force,
then joined the faculty of SUNY Downstate Medical
Center. There, his research into sodium and potassium in living cells led
him to his first experiments with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) which caused
him to first propose the MR body scanner in 1969.
NMR, the phenomenon of atomic nuclei emitting radio waves
at predictable frequencies when exposed to a powerful magnetic field, had been
used during and after World War II to probe the composition of various substances.
Damadian invented an apparatus and method to use NMR safely and accurately to
scan the human body, a method now well known as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Experimenting on rats, Damadian discovered dramatic differences
in the quality and duration of NMR signals emitted by cancerous versus healthy
tissues that confirmed his idea of the MR body scanner. His 1971 paper, "Tumor
Detection by Magnetic Resonance," was met with skepticism from the scientific
community, but Damadian forged ahead, filing the first of his patents for an
MRI scanner the next year. The scanner used liquid
helium to supercool magnets in the walls of a cylindrical chamber; the nuclei
of hydrogen atoms in the water, which all cells contain, reacted to the resultant
magnetic field, and a three-dimensional spatial localization method coordinated
the signals into the scan.
Damadian spent the next years working with teams of graduate
students to make his scanner a reality. Meanwhile, many scientists had decided
that Damadian's ideas were not so misguided after all and began to compete to
develop the first workable scanner. Finally, in 1977, Damadian's team produced
the first MRI scan of the human body, using a prototype device he called "Indomitable"
(now installed in the Smithsonian Institution).
The first MRI scan provided a clear image of the heart, lungs
and chest wall with no side effects. Today, MRI scanners can instantly map and
analyze any part of the human body in minute detail, allowing visual diagnosis
of virtually any medical condition, from strained muscles to tumors. They can
also provide the chemical composition of the tissue being scanned.
In 1978, Damadian formed a company, FONAR
Corporation (from "Field fOcused Nuclear mAgnetic Resonance"), which produced
the first commercial scanner in 1980. Later the company developed the first
FDA-approved, first mobile, and first whole-body MR scanners. FONAR's patented
Iron Circuit technology has enabled the company to develop seven different
MRI products including the recently cleared-for-marketing FONAR 360°, a
full-size room with two circular structures (the poles of the magnet) projecting
from the ceiling and the floor. There are no obstructions between the patient
and the walls of the scanner room, and the patient is accessible from any direction.
Damadian is also working on the Stand-Up MRI, the only scanner that allows
MRI patients to be scanned while standing up.
Damadian continues to direct FONAR's scientific and financial
progress, as Chairman and President. He has earned over 40 patents, as well
as the 2001 Lemelson-MIT Program's
Lifetime Achievement Award, a National
Medal of Technology (1988), and induction into the National
Inventors Hall of Fame (1989).