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Leo J. Neuringer of Wellesley, Mass., a physicist at MIT who pioneered the development of imaging and spectroscopic technology for medical and other purposes, died Tuesday (May 4) at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, of cancer. He was 65.
Dr. Neuringer had been a staff member at MIT's Francis Bitter National Magnet Laboratory since 1963. His early research was focused on the fundamental properties of semiconductors and superconductors in intense magnetic fields at low temperatures.
In 1974 he founded the High Field Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Resource at the laboratory under the sponsorship of the National Institutes of Health, serving as its director until 1989. He also was founder and director of the Magnetic Resonance Imaging Facility at MIT from 1982 to 1989.
From 1989 until his retirement last month, he served as program director of a large research effort in the development of high magnetic field instrumentation for whole body imaging of humans. The facility, officially known as the NIH Comprehensive NMR Center for Biomedical Research, is used by the Boston area medical community for basic research on human biology and disease.
Under Dr. Neuringer's direction, the nuclear magnetic resonance facilities at the Magnet Laboratory and MIT contributed significant and new applications of NMR to research in the structure and functions of molecules and cells and in cardiac surgery, brain disease in children, diabetes, and cancer.
Although not a faculty member, Dr. Neuringer was a superb teacher, said Dr. David Holtzman, a neurologist at Children's Hospital who studied and collaborated with Dr. Neuringer as a visiting scientist at the Magnet Lab.
"There are people in almost all basic magnetic resonance imaging fields who at one time or another worked with him," Dr. Holtzman said. "He engendered excitement and dedication in his students." The students largely came from Harvard Medical School, the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and the MIT Department of Nuclear Engineering.
Dr. Holtzman said his colleague's dedication to science was eclipsed only by his devotion to his wife and children, and that Dr. Neuringer thought of his students virtually as extended members of his family. "There probably wasn't anybody who hadn't been out to his house a few times," he said.
Of the many research papers authored by Dr. Neuringer and his students, Dr. Holtzman noted, practically all list the student author first.
Dr. Neuringer broadly expanded the medical applications of MRI, Dr. Holtzman said, by pushing himself and his students to ask: "What questions can we ask with this technology?"
Dr. Neuringer was born in New York City in 1928. He received a BS in physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1951 and a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1957.
Before coming to MIT, he was a physicist with the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C., a scientist with the Raytheon Company and a physics instructor at Tufts University.
He was a senior scientist at MIT and a member of the Francis Bitter National Magnet Laboratory steering committee.
He was a visiting professor at several universities, including Tufts, Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the University of Chile.
He was the author or co-author of some 90 articles in professional journals, and he was a Fellow of the American Physical Society.
His survivors include his wife, Adele (Friedman) Neuringer of Wellesley; his children, Larry Neuringer of Rye, N.Y., Dr. Julia Neuringer-Cohen of Brookline, Mass., and Dr. Isabel Neuringer of Brookline; his sister, Frances Yarmush of Brooklyn, N.Y.; his brother, Irv Neuringer of Bethlehem, N.H.; and a grandchild, Dale Neuringer of Rye, N.Y.
The funeral service was Thursday, May 6, at Congregation Beth El-Atereth Israel in Newton. He was a member there and also of Temple Reyim in Newton. Interment was at Linwood Memorial Park in Randolph, Mass.
Donations in his name may be made to a charity of one's choice.
A version of this article appeared in the May 12, 1993 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 32).