Dr. Raymond Damadian, "father|
of the MRI"
Dr. Raymond Damadian, the inventor of the MRI
(magnetic resonance imaging) machine, who received the National Medal of
Technology and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for
his pioneering work, will be the 1999 Dean's Day speaker.
In the 1930's, physicists observed that atoms give off tiny radio signals when subjected to magnetic fields and radio waves. In the early 1970's, as an associate professor of biophysics and internal medicine at New York Downstate Health Sciences Center in Brooklyn, Dr. Damadian used nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry in his quest to distinguish between healthy and diseased cells. His experiments showed that nuclear magnetic resonance signals persist longer in cancerous cells.
In 1972, Dr. Damadian filed for and obtained a patent for scanning the human body with magnetic resonance imaging and formed his own company, FONAR. The first-ever MRI machine, dubbed "Indomitable," is now in the Smithsonian, and has taken its place alongside other notable "firsts."
Today, the MRI is considered an indispensable tool but acceptance of the technology did not come easily. Even after Dr. Damadian performed the first human body scan in 1977, his accomplishment was greeted with skepticism and dismissed by his peers.
Once the potential to detect tumors was accepted, however, Dr. Damadian had to fight off giant companies such as Hitachi and General Electric to protect his patented technology. Hitachi settled out of court, but the case against GE went to trial in 1995. In a "David v. Goliath" lawsuit, FONAR won one of the largest patent settlements on record: $128.7 million.
MRI technology has become a vital diagnostic tool, and Dr. Damadian believes that it will become an equally important tool for treatment. The initial technology has evolved into an MRI operating room so the entire surgical team operates within it.
"The Open Sky MRI offers a potential revolution in surgery," said Dr. Damadian, "It enhances the surgeon's eye and lets him see tissues in 3-D." For the future, Dr. Damadian expects the MRI to be used to deliver doses of chemotherapy directly into tumor tissue, eliminating toxic side effects.
A Ford Foundation Scholar at the age of 16, Dr. Damadian enrolled in the University of Wiscon-sin, majoring in mathematics. He received his M.D. degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1960. He holds honorary degrees from the University of Wisconsin and State University of New York.
Dr. Damadian's talk, "Against All Odds: History of the MRI," will be part of the Reunion '99 Weekend and will take place on Saturday, June 5, at 2:30 p.m. in the C.P. Davis Auditorium of the Schapiro Center for Engineering and Physical Science Research.