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Godfrey Hounsfield: Changed Medical Diagnostics with the CT Scan

Posted December 20, 2012 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta

Sir Godfrey Newbold Hounsfield was a Nobel Prize winner who played a role in developing the CT scan.

Hounsfield was born in England on August 28, 1919. By age 18 he was actively working on his own projects including electrical recording machines, a glider, and water jet propelling. He joined the Royal Air Force before WWII and learned more about electronics and radar. Hounsfield took many examinations related to radar and radio communications. Following the war he attended Faraday Electrical Engineering College.

In 1951 Hounsfield joined EMI to work on radar and guided weapons. He was an early adopter of computers and designed storage for them. He was involved in the design of the first all-transistor computer constructed in Britain in 1958. It was called the EMIDEC 1100.

By 1967 Hounsfield was working on automatic pattern recognition and X-ray computed tomography (CT). He realized that the contents of a box could be visualized using x-rays from all angles. A computer could generate similar images from all angles displayed in "slices."

Hounsfield tested out early scanners on the brains of deceased humans and cattle. In the early days it took nine days to acquire the data and 2.5 hours to reconstruct the image on a computer. Using X-ray tubes instead of gamma ray sources reduced scanning time to nine hours. A whole-body scanner was eventually developed in addition to the brain scanner. The first successful CT scan in medical practice occurred on October 1, 1971; a full-body scanner was built in 1975.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Hounsfield and American physicist Allan Cormack in 1979. Cormack had developed the same technology a few years earlier but lacked financial backing. The honors were debated in scientific circles because despite the fact that use of the technology continued to grow, neither man had a degree in medicine or biology.

The Hounsfield scale was named after him and is used as a quantitative measure of radio density in CT scans. He was knighted in 1981 and died on August 12, 2004.

Bonus Trivia: CT scan technology was largely funded by the success of the Beatles, who recorded under the EMI label.

Resources: NNDB - Godfrey N. Hounsfield; The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1979; Radiology - Sir Godfrey Hounsfield; Wikipedia - Godfrey Hounsfield; image

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Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1756
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Re: Godfrey Hounsfield: Changed Medical Diagnostics with the CT Scan

12/21/2012 4:39 PM

Wonderful and dated.

It illustrates the rate of advancement of technology.

Now, in many areas it is eclipsed by the adapted ultrasound for the proper tissue density, and thermal imaging. Both, without the massive X-ray load the noted technology entails.

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