The History of MRI

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A quick history of the MRI.

1882 - Nikola Tesla discovered the Rotating Magnetic Field in Budapest, Hungary. This was a fundamental discovery in physics.

1937 - Columbia University Professor Isidor I. Rabi working in the Pupin Physic Laboratory in New York City, observed the quantum phenomenon dubbed nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR).  He recognized that the atomic nuclei show their presence by absorbing or emitting radio waves when exposed to a sufficiently strong magnetic field.

1946 - Felix Bloch and Edward Purcell discover magnetic resonance phenomenon.

1950's - Herman Carr creates a one-dimensional MR image.

1956 - The "Tesla Unit" was proclaimed in the Rathaus of Munich, Germany by the International Electro-technical Commission-Committee of Action. All MRI machines are calibrated in "Tesla Units". The strength of a magnetic field is measured in Tesla or Gauss Units. The stronger the magnetic field, the stronger the amount of radio signals which can be elicited from the body's atoms and therefore the higher the quality of MRI images.

1971 - Raymond Damadian, a physician and experimenter working at Brooklyn's Downstate Medical Center discovered that hydrogen signal in cancerous tissue is different from that of healthy tissue because tumors contain more water. More water means more hydrogen atoms. When the NMR machine was switched off, the bath of radio waves from cancerous tissue will linger longer then those from the healthy tissue.

1972 - Raymond Damadian applies for a patent, which describes the concept of NMR being used for above purpose. He illustrates major parts of MRI machine in his patent application.

1973- Paul Lauterbur, a chemist and an NMR pioneer at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, produced the first NMR image. It was of a test tube.

1974 - Raymond Damadian receives his patent.

1975 - Richard Ernst proposes using phase and frequency encoding and Fourier transform for acquisition of MR images.

1977/1978 - Raymond Damadian went on to build the first MRI scanner by hand, assisted by his two post-doctoral students, Michael Goldsmith and Larry Minkoff at New York’s Downstate Medical Center and achieved the first MRI scan of a healthy human body in 1977 and a human body with cancer in 1978. Peter Mansfield improves mathematics behind MRI and develops echo-planar technique, which allows images to be produces in seconds and later becomes the basis for fast MR imaging.

1983 - Ljunggren and Tweig introduce k-space.

1986 - Le Bihan publishes an article in Radiology, which describes diffusion weighted imaging (DWI).

1987 - Real time MR imaging of the heart is developed.

1991 - Filler and colleagues describe imaging of axonal transport of supermagnetic metal oxide particles, a technique, which later becomes important in imaging of neural tracts.

1993 - Functional MR imaging of the brain is introduced.

1994 - The first intraoperative MR unit developed by GE and Harvard is installed in the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

1990's - In addition to research centers and large hospitals, small remote hospitals and imaging centers begin to utilize MRI predominantly for neuroimaging and musculoskeletal imaging.

2000's - Cardiac MRI, Body MRI, fetal imaging, functional MR imaging are further developed and become routine in many imaging centers. Research centers make significant strides forward in imaging cartilage on high field scanners. The number of free standing MRI centers, most of which utilize low or moderate field MR scanners significantly increases.



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Nikola Tesla, discoverer of the Rotating Magnetic Field. Source



Chemist Paul Lauterbur, first producer of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Source: American Chemical Society National Historic Chemical Landmarks. NMR and MRI: Applications in Chemistry and Medicine. (accessed April 15, 2015).


Damadian invention.jpg

"Damadian invention". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.




L to R: Raymond Damadian, Larry Minkoff and Michael Goldsmith with "Indomitable" and its iced liquid helium and liquid nitrogen ports: the world's first supercooled, superconducting MR scanner and the world's first MRI machine. source



The unsuccessful first human MRI scan of Damadian. Goldsmith concluded that Damadian was simply "too fat" for his NMR receiver coil (the multi-conductor helix around Damadian's chest). source



Raymond Damadian pointing to Larry Minkoff inside the receiver coil. source


First MRI scan

The interpolated image of the Minkoff scan and the first ever MRI scan of a live human being (4:45 AM July 3, 1977). source



Fantastic success scribed after first human image captured in MRI. source



The team behind some of the first whole-body MRI scans (Copyright: Sir Peter Mansfield). source





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IMPORTANT: The information on this page, and throughout the entire site, is not intended to provide advice or treatment for a specific situation. Consult your physician and medical team for information and treatment plans on your specific condition(s). Images are shown for illustrative purposes. Do not attempt to draw conclusions or make diagnoses by comparing these image to other medical images, particularly your own.








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