Nuclear Magnetic Resonance

Nuclear magnetic resonance was first described by the physicist Isidor Rabi (1898-1988) in 1938. In 1944, Rabi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for this work. In 1946, Felix Bloch (1905-1983) and Edward Mills Purcell (1912-1997) expanded the technique for use on liquids and solids. For this they shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1952.

However, for decades magnetic resonance was used mainly for studying the chemical structure of substances. It was not until the 1970s with Lauterbur and Mansfield’s developments that NMR could be used to produce images of the body.

Paul Christian Lauterbur (1929-2007), discovered the possibility to create a two-dimensional picture by introducing gradients in the magnetic field. His analysis of the characteristics of the emitted radio waves enabled him to determine their origin, making it possible to construct two-dimensional images of structures that could not be visualised otherwise.

Peter Mansfield (born in 1933), further developed the potential of gradients in the magnetic field. He showed how the signals could be mathematically analysed. In 2003, Paul Lauterbur and Peter Mansfield were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their research on magnet resonance imaging.

Today, magnetic resonance imaging, MRI, has become a routine method within the wide spectrum of medical diagnostic tools. MRI is superior to many other imaging techniques and has replaced several invasive modes of examination, reducing the risks and discomfort for patients.

Read more: Europe-The Cradle of Urology: Imaging in urology pp 148-157