LEMELSON-MIT PROGRAM BESTOWS LIFETIME
ACHIEVEMENT AWARD TO PIONEER OF DIAGNOSTIC MEDICINE
Raymond Damadian Invented MRI Machine
for Scanning Human Body–Enabled Early Detection of Cancer
and other Diseases
New York, NY, April 24, 2001 – The man who invented
the MR scanner, a non-invasive diagnostic tool used for the early
detection of cancer and other diseases, was today named winner of
the seventh annual Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award for invention
and innovation. Dr. Raymond Damadian, the pioneer of magnetic resonance
scanning technology, is being recognized for his contributions to
Dr. Damadian wrote his first paper about his proposed MR scanner
in 1971 and received a pioneer patent in 1972. Since his first scan
of the human body in 1977, MRI technology has grown into a $5 billion
per year industry and is universally recognized as the premier diagnostic
imaging method. It detects diseased tissue more efficiently, accurately
and safely than other means. MR machines use radio signals emitted
from the body's cells to enable instant mapping and analysis of
tissue. Data collected by MR scanners can be transformed into images
for visual diagnosis or analyzed for chemical composition.
Although the technology used in Damadian's machine nuclear
magnetic resonance (NMR or MR), where harmless magnetic fields and
radio waves cause atoms to emit tiny, detectable radio signals
had existed for 25 years, Damadian was the first to successfully
apply the physics of NMR to clinical medicine.
In 1971, Damadian demonstrated for the first time that the MR signal
could overcome one of medicine's longstanding deficiencies
the inability of the x-ray to create the contrast needed to see
the body's vital organs. Citing this contrast deficiency in a paper
published in Science, Damadian proposed that the profound differences
between the decay rate of the MR signal of soft tissues and the
decay rate of the MR signal of cancerous tissues had the potential
to address this long-standing, critical need in medicine. He proposed
the creation of a new body scanner based on the MR signal and on
his discovery of the critical differences in the MR signals that
existed among the body's vital tissues. The images of the interior
of the human body that resulted from Damadian's work were far superior
in detail to those of existing X-ray devices because the MR could
generate the tissue contrast that was missing in x-ray pictures.
This is of particular importance because the majority of fatal diseases
occur within the body's soft tissue.
As with any groundbreaking invention, Damadian's MR scanner was
met with great skepticism. "What I learned in the process of
developing the MR scanner was that criticism is an integral part
of the process and always has been," comments Damadian. "The
bolder the initiative, the harsher the criticism."
Damadian, a violin student who left the Juilliard School of Music
to pursue a medical education, first became interested in medicine
at the age of ten, after witnessing his grandmother's pain and suffering
from cancer. He chose medical research over clinical practice because
he believed that carefully executed experiments could result in
major medical contributions with the potential to benefit many people.
Damadian felt that research would allow him to help many millions
of people, rather than the thousands he would be able to beneficially
reach in the day-to-day practice of medicine.
Today, Damadian oversees FONAR Corporation, the Melville, NY-based
company he formed in 1978 to produce and market his MRI scanner.
After twenty-three years in business, FONAR continues to research
and develop, manufacture, sell and ship its own MRI scanners.
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FONAR's recent MRI innovations include a full-sized MRI operating
room that allows unrestricted 360-degree access to the patient and
ample space for an entire surgical team and their equipment, and
the Stand-Up MRI the only scanner to allow MRI patients to
simply walk in and be scanned while standing. The revolutionary
design of the Stand-Up MRI™ allows all parts of the body to
be scanned in the weight-bearing position.
"Raymond Damadian's unwavering faith in his ideas enabled
him to forge ahead amidst enormous skepticism, and to invent a machine
that has transformed the field of diagnostic medicine. Jerry Lemelson
would have been elated to see this 'inventor's inventor' being recognized
through the Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award," says
Lester C. Thurow, Lemelson-MIT Prize Board chairman.
Other recipients of the Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award
include such distinguished inventors as Al Gross, wireless pioneer
who invented the walkie-talkie and pager; Stephanie Kwolek, the
inventor of Kevlar® (used in a variety of products from bullet-proof
vests to airplane bodies); Wilson Greatbatch, creator of the implantable
cardiac pacemaker (the first successful major biomedical device);
and Gertrude Elion, innovator of drugs that combat cancer and facilitate
organ transplantation between non-related donors.
The Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award is conferred annually
by the Lemelson-MIT Program, which recognizes the nation's most
talented inventors and innovators and promotes living role models
in the fields of science, engineering, medicine and entrepreneurship
in the hope of encouraging future generations to follow their example.
Dr. Damadian will be formally presented with the Lemelson-MIT Lifetime
Achievement Award on Wednesday, April 25, at a special ceremony
at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington,
D.C. This year the ceremony will be held in conjunction with "Nobel
Week," a series of programs honoring the centennial of the
Nobel Prizes, hosted by the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention
and Innovation at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American
Based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, the Lemelson-MIT Program was established in 1994
by the late independent inventor Jerome H. Lemelson and his wife,
Dorothy. The Program celebrates inventor/innovator role models through
outreach activities and annual awards, including the world's largest
for invention the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize. The Program
is funded by the Lemelson Foundation, which supports other invention
initiatives at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History,
Hampshire College, the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators
Alliance and the University of Nevada, Reno.
Read more about Dr. Damadian.
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