Paul Lauterbur

Paul Christian Lauterbur (May 6, 1929 – March 27, 2007) was an American chemist who shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2003 with Peter Mansfield for his work which made the development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) possible.[1]

Lauterbur was a professor at the Stony Brook University from 1963 until 1985 where he conducted his research for the development of the MRI.[2] In 1985 he became a professor along with his wife Joan at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for 22 years until his death in Urbana. He never stopped working with undergraduates on research, and he served as a professor of chemistry, with appointments in bioengineering, biophysics, the College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign and computational biology at the Center for Advanced Study.[3]

Paul Lauterbur
BornMay 6, 1929
DiedMarch 27, 2007 (aged 77)
ResidenceUnited States
Alma materCase Western Reserve University (BS),
University of Pittsburgh (PhD)
Known forMagnetic Resonance Imaging
AwardsNobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2003)
Kyoto Prize (1994)
Bower Award (1990)
IEEE Medal of Honor (1987)
National Medal of Science (1987)
Harvey Prize (1986)
Potts Medal (1983)
Scientific career
InstitutionsState University of New York at Stony Brook
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Mellon Institute of Industrial Research (now part of Carnegie Mellon University)
Cursive signature with Sharpee marker

Early life

Lauterbur was of Luxembourgish ancestry. Born and raised in Sidney, Ohio, Lauterbur graduated from Sidney High School, where a new Chemistry, Physics, and Biology wing was dedicated in his honor. As a teenager, he built his own laboratory in the basement of his parents' house.[4] His chemistry teacher at school understood that he enjoyed experimenting on his own, so the teacher allowed him to do his own experiments at the back of class.[4]

When he was drafted into the United States Army in the 1950s, his superiors allowed him to spend his time working on an early nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) machine; he had published four scientific papers by the time he left the Army.[4] Paul became an atheist later on.[5]

Education and career

Lauterbur received a BS in chemistry from the Case Institute of Technology, now part of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio where he became a Brother of the Alpha Delta Chapter of Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity. He then went to work at the Mellon Institute laboratories of the Dow Corning Corporation, with a 2-year break to serve at the Army Chemical Center in Edgewood, Maryland. While working at Mellon Institute he pursued graduate studies in chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh. Earning his PhD in 1962, the following year Lauterbur accepted a position as associate professor at State University of New York at Stony Brook. As a visiting faculty in chemistry at Stanford University during the 1969–1970 academic year, he undertook NMR-related research with the help of local businesses Syntex and Varian Associates. Lauterbur returned to Stony Brook, continuing there until 1985 when he moved to the University of Illinois.[6]

The development of the MRI

Lauterbur credits the idea of the MRI to a brainstorm one day at a suburban Pittsburgh Eat'n Park Big Boy Restaurant, with the MRI's first model scribbled on a table napkin while he was a student and researcher at both the University of Pittsburgh and the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research.[4][7][8] The further research that led to the Nobel Prize was performed at Stony Brook University[9] in the 1970s.

The Nobel Prize in Physics in 1952, which went to Felix Bloch and Edward Purcell, was for the development of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), the scientific principle behind MRI. However, for decades magnetic resonance was used mainly for studying the chemical structure of substances. It wasn't until the 1970s with Lauterbur's and Mansfield's developments that NMR could be used to produce images of the body.

Lauterbur used the idea of Robert Gabillard (developed in his doctoral thesis, 1952) of introducing gradients in the magnetic field which allows for determining the origin of the radio waves emitted from the nuclei of the object of study. This spatial information allows two-dimensional pictures to be produced.[4]

While Lauterbur conducted his work at Stony Brook, the best NMR machine on campus belonged to the chemistry department; he had to visit it at night to use it for experimentation and would carefully change the settings so that they would return to those of the chemists' as he left.[10] The original MRI machine is located at the Chemistry building on the campus of the State University of New York at Stony Brook in Stony Brook, New York.

Some of the first images taken by Lauterbur included those of a 4-mm-diameter clam[11] his daughter had collected on the beach at the Long Island Sound, green peppers[4] and two test tubes of heavy water within a beaker of ordinary water; no other imaging technique in existence at that time could distinguish between two different kinds of water. This last achievement is particularly important as the human body consists mostly of water.[10]

When Lauterbur first submitted his paper with his discoveries to Nature, the paper was rejected by the editors of the journal. Lauterbur persisted and requested them to review it again, upon which time it was published and is now acknowledged as a classic Nature paper.[12] The Nature editors pointed out that the pictures accompanying the paper were too fuzzy, although they were the first images to show the difference between heavy water and ordinary water.[4] Lauterbur said of the initial rejection: "You could write the entire history of science in the last 50 years in terms of papers rejected by Science or Nature."[10]

Peter Mansfield of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom took Lauterbur's initial work another step further, replacing the slow (and prone to artefacts) projection-reconstruction method used by Lautebur's original technique with a method that used frequency and phase encoding by spatial gradients of magnetic field. Owing to Larmor precession, a mathematical technique called a Fourier transformation could then be used to recover the desired image, greatly speeding up the imaging process.[10]

Lauterbur unsuccessfully attempted to file patents related to his work to commercialize the discovery.[13] The State University of New York chose not to pursue patents, with the rationale that the expense would not pay off in the end. "The company that was in charge of such applications decided that it would not repay the expense of getting a patent. That turned out not to be a spectacularly good decision," Lauterbur said in 2003. He attempted to get the federal government to pay for an early prototype of the MRI machine for years in the 1970s, and the process took a decade.[14] The University of Nottingham did file patents which later made Mansfield wealthy.[14]

U.S. President George W. Bush with the six 2003 American Nobel laureates in the Oval Office. From left to right, Roderick MacKinnon, New York City (chemistry); Anthony Leggett, Urbana, Illinois (physics); Dr. Robert Engle, New York City (economics); Alexei Abrikosov, Argonne, Illinois (physics); Peter Agre, Baltimore, Maryland (chemistry); and Dr. Paul Lauterbur, Urbana, Illinois (physiology/medicine).

Nobel Prize

Lauterbur was awarded the Nobel Prize along with Mansfield in the fall of 2003. Controversy occurred when Raymond Damadian took out full-page ads in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times headlined "The Shameful Wrong That Must Be Righted" saying that the Nobel committee had not included him as a Prize winner alongside Lauterbur and Mansfield for his early work on the MRI. Damadian claimed that he discovered MRI and the two Nobel-winning scientists refined his technology.

The New York Times published an editorial saying that while scientists credit Damadian for holding an early patent in MRI technology, Lauterbur and Mansfield expanded upon Herman Carr's technique in order to produce first 2D and then 3D MR images. The editorial deems this to be worthy of a Nobel prize even though it states clearly in Alfred Nobel's will that prizes are not to be given out solely on the basis of improving an existing technology for commercial use. The newspaper then points out a few cases in which precursor discoveries had been awarded with a Nobel, along with a few deserving cases in which it had not, such as Rosalind Franklin, Oswald Avery, Robert Gabillard.[15][16]


Lauterbur died aged 77 in March 2007 of kidney disease at his home in Urbana, Illinois. University of Illinois Chancellor Richard Herman said, "Paul's influence is felt around the world every day, every time an MRI saves the life of a daughter or a son, a mother or a father."[16]

Other awards and honors

Honorary Degrees:

See also


  1. ^ Filler, AG: The history, development, and impact of computed imaging in neurological diagnosis and neurosurgery: CT, MRI, DTI: Nature Precedings doi:10.1038/npre.2009.3267.4.
  2. ^ P. C. Lauterbur (1973). "Image Formation by Induced Local Interaction; Examples Employing Nuclear Magnetic Resonance". Nature. 242 (5394): 190–191. Bibcode:1973Natur.242..190L. doi:10.1038/242190a0.
  3. ^ a b Spice, Byron (2003-10-07). "Nobel Prize for MRI began with a burger in New Kensington". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Paul Lauterbur". The Economist. 2007-04-07. Retrieved 2007-08-04.
  5. ^ Dawson, M. Joan. Paul Lauterbur and the Invention of MRI. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2013. Print. "Paul became an atheist, revering intellectual honesty and the quest for truth."
  6. ^ Lauterbur, Paul C. (2003). "Autobiography". Nobel Prize official website. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
  7. ^ Gill, Cindy (Fall 2004). "Magnetic Personality". Pitt Magazine. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved 2010-06-19.
  8. ^ Prasad, Amit (2014-03-14). Imperial Technoscience: Transnational Histories of MRI in the United States, Britain, and India. MIT Press. p. 17. ISBN 9780262026956.
  9. ^ Nobel Prize Awardee Paul Lauterbur Returns To SBU Where His Winning Research Was Conducted In The '70s
  10. ^ a b c d Wade, Nicholas (2003-10-07). "American and Briton Win Nobel for Using Chemists' Test for M.R.I.'s". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-04.
  11. ^ Becker, Edwin D. (July 2007). "Obituary: Paul Christian Lauterbur". Physics Today. 60 (7): 77–78. Bibcode:2007PhT....60g..77B. doi:10.1063/1.2761815.
  12. ^ "MRI — a new way of seeing". Nature. Retrieved 2007-08-04.
  13. ^ a b Deutsch, Claudia (2007-04-07). "Patent Fights Aplenty for M.R.I. Pioneer". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-04.
  14. ^ a b Maugh, Thomas (2007-04-07). "Paul Lauterbur, 77; 'the father of MRI'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2007-08-04.
  15. ^ Judson, Horace (2003-10-20). "No Nobel Prize for Whining". New York Times. Retrieved 2018-05-04.
  16. ^ a b Chang, Kenneth (2007-03-28). "Paul Lauterbur, MRI pioneer and Nobel Laureate, dies". International Herald Tribune (now New York Times International Edition). Retrieved 2018-05-04.
  17. ^ "NAS Award for Chemistry in Service to Society". National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on 29 December 2010. Retrieved 14 March 2011.

Further reading

  • Dawson, M. Joan. Paul Lauterbur and the Invention of MRI, Boston: MIT Press, 2013. ISBN 9780262019217
  • "Paul C. Lauterbur - Biographical". Nobel Media AB. [1]

External links

1929 in science

The year 1929 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.

2003 in England

Events from 2003 in England

2003 in science

The year 2003 was an exciting one for new scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs progress in many scientific fields. Some of the highlights of 2003, which will be further discussed below, include: the anthropologic discovery of 350,000-year-old footprints attesting to the presence of upright-walking humans; SpaceShipOne flight 11P making its first supersonic flight; the observation of a previously unknown element, moscovium was made; and the world's first digital camera with an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display is released by Kodak.

The year 2003 is also notable for the disintegration of the Columbia Space Shuttle upon its re-entry into earth's atmosphere, a tragic disaster which took the lives of all seven astronauts on board; the Concorde jet made its last flight, bringing to an end the era of civilian supersonic travel, at least for the time being; and the death of Edward Teller, physicist and inventor of the hydrogen bomb.

2007 in science

The year 2007 involved many significant scientific events and discoveries, some of which are listed below.

Chevron Science Center

Chevron Science Center is a landmark academic building at 219 Parkman Avenue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh. The 15-story facility, completed in 1974, was designed by Kuhn, Newcomer & Valentour and houses the university's chemistry department. A three-story addition above Ashe Auditorium was completed in 2011.

IEEE Medal of Honor

The IEEE Medal of Honor is the highest recognition of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). It has been awarded since 1917, when its first recipient was Major Edwin H. Armstrong. It is given for an exceptional contribution or an extraordinary career in the IEEE fields of interest. The award consists of a gold medal, bronze replica, certificate and honorarium. The Medal of Honor may only be awarded to an individual.

The medal was created by the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) as the IRE Medal of Honor. It became the IEEE Medal of Honor when IRE merged with the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) to form the IEEE in 1963. It was decided that IRE's Medal of Honor would be presented as IEEE's highest award, while the Edison Medal would become IEEE's principal medal.

Ten persons with an exceptional career in electrical engineering received both the IEEE Edison Medal and the IEEE Medal of Honor, namely Edwin Howard Armstrong, Ernst Alexanderson, Mihajlo Pupin, Arthur E. Kennelly, Vladimir K. Zworykin, John R. Pierce, Sidney Darlington, Nick Holonyak, Robert H. Dennard, Dave Forney, and Kees Schouhamer Immink.

Lauri Vaska

Lauri Vaska (May 7, 1925 – November 15, 2015) was an Estonian-American chemist who has made noteworthy contributions to organometallic chemistry. He was born in Rakvere, Estonia.

Vaska was educated at the Baltic University in Hamburg, Germany (1946) and subsequently at the University of Göttingen (1946–1949), where he received his Vordiplom (equivalent to the American B.S. degree). He pursued his Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry at the University of Texas in the United States (1952–1956). He was a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University (1956–1957) where he conducted research on magnetochemistry. In 1957 he took a position as Fellow at the Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh, where he remained until 1964. During that time, the Mellon Institute housed a number of future chemical luminaries, including Paul Lauterbur and R. Bruce King. Vaska moved as an associate professor to Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, where, from 1990 to his death, he was professor emeritus of chemistry. His brother Vootele Vaska is a philosopher. He died in Basking Ridge, New Jersey in 2015, aged 90.


Lauterbur is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Frank Lauterbur (1925-2013), American football player and coach

Paul Lauterbur (1929-2007), American chemist

List of Carnegie Mellon University people

This is a list of notable people associated with Carnegie Mellon University in the United States of America.

List of scientific priority disputes

This is a list of priority disputes in science and science-related fields (such as mathematics).

Luxembourgish Americans

Luxembourgish Americans (sometimes hyphenated) are Americans of Luxembourgish ancestry. According to the United States' 2000 Census, there were 45,139 Americans of full or partial Luxembourgish descent. In 1940 the number of Americans with Luxembourgish ancestry was around 100,000.The first families from Luxembourg arrived in the United States, around 1842, fleeing of the overpopulation and economic change in the newly independent country. They worked in the field, as was traditional in their country.Luxembourgish Americans are overwhelmingly concentrated in the Midwest, where most originally settled in the nineteenth century. At the 2000 Census, the states with the largest self-reported Luxembourgish American populations were Illinois (6,963), Wisconsin (6,580), Minnesota (5,867), Iowa (5,624), and California (2,824).

Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain

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Max Delbruck Prize

The Max Delbruck Prize, formerly known as the Biological physics prize, is awarded by the Division of Biological Physics of the American Physical Society, to recognize and encourage outstanding achievement in biological physics research. The prize was established in 1981, and renamed for Max Delbrück in 2006. The award consists of $10,000, an allowance for travel to the meeting where the prize is awarded, and a certificate. It was presented biennially in even-numbered years until 2014, and will be presented annually starting 2015.

Mellon College of Science

The Mellon College of Science (MCS) is part of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. The college is named for the Mellon family, founders of the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research, a predecessor of Carnegie Mellon University.

The college offers various bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. It also awards the Dickson Prize in Science. Since 2016, its dean is Rebecca Doerge.

Michelson–Morley Award

The Michelson–Morley Award is a science award that originated from the Michelson Award that was established in 1963 by the Case Institute of Technology. It was renamed in 1968 by the newly formed Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) after the federation between the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University. The award continued until 1992, and was re-established in 2002. The award in its various forms is named for physics professor Albert A. Michelson (Case School of Applied Sciences) and chemistry professor Edward W. Morley (Western Reserve University) who carried out the famous Michelson–Morley experiment of 1887.

Peter Mansfield

Sir Peter Mansfield (9 October 1933 – 8 February 2017) was an English physicist who was awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, shared with Paul Lauterbur, for discoveries concerning Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Mansfield was a professor at the University of Nottingham.

Raymond Damadian

Raymond Vahan Damadian (born March 16, 1936) is an American physician, medical practitioner, and inventor of the first MR (Magnetic Resonance) Scanning Machine.Damadian's research into sodium and potassium in living cells led him to his first experiments with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) which caused him to first propose the MR body scanner in 1969. Damadian discovered that tumors and normal tissue can be distinguished in vivo by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) because of their prolonged relaxation times, both T1 (spin-lattice relaxation) or T2 (spin-spin relaxation). Damadian was the first to perform a full body scan of a human being in 1977 to diagnose cancer. Damadian invented an apparatus and method to use NMR safely and accurately to scan the human body, a method now well known as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).Damadian has received several prizes. In 2001, the Lemelson-MIT Prize Program bestowed its $100,000 Lifetime Achievement Award on Damadian as "the man who invented the MRI scanner." He went on to collaborate with Wilson Greatbach, one early developer of the implantable pacemaker, to develop an MRI-compatible pacemaker. The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia gave its recognition of Damadian's work on MRI with the Bower Award in Business Leadership. He was also named Knights of Vartan 2003 "Man of the Year". He received a National Medal of Technology in 1988 and was inducted in the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1989.

Sidney High School (Ohio)

Sidney High School is a comprehensive, college-prep oriented public high school in Sidney, Ohio which is located 40 miles north of Dayton, Ohio on Interstate 75. It is the only public high school in the Sidney City Schools district. Sidney High School is State accredited in Ohio by the Ohio Department of Education. Sidney High School is also a member of the Greater Western Ohio Conference (GWOC) and Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) in athletics. In the 2019-2020 school year, however, Sidney High School will leave GWOC and join the newly-created Miami Valley League (MVL).

Sidney High School average enrollment is approximately 1,000, with approximately 200 students attending the Upper Valley Career Center in Piqua, OH. The average graduating class size is approximately 250 students.

Sidney City Schools offers more than 70 extracurricular activities for students from 6th grade on. Sports include: football; boys & girls soccer; boys & girls basketball; boys baseball; girls fastpitch; boys & girls tennis; co-ed track; co-ed bowling; co-ed swimming; co-ed cross country; girls volleyball; co-ed wrestling; weight lifting; cheerleading; marching band; and golf. Clubs include: Academia, Mock Trial, Breakfast Club, Key Club, Art Club, FCCLA; Debate Club; Environthon; German Club; Muse Machine; SADD; Student Government; National Honor Society; DECA; and Intramural Athletics.

Vladislav Ivanov (physicist)

Vladislav Alexandrovich Ivanov (Russian: Владислав Александрович Иванов; 1936-2007) was a Soviet physicist and engineer, who proposed in 1959 the basic principles of Magnetic Resonance Imaging , decades before this technique was demonstrated by Paul Lauterbur.Ivanov graduated from Lenigrad Airforce Academy in 1959. While at the academy, he came up with the idea of using the recently discovered phenomenon of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance for imaging purposes. In 1959, he filed his first application for Invention Certificate (a patent -like document used in the Soviet Union) titled "Free-precession proton microscope". Soon afterwards he filed three more applications. The second of his application (filed in March of 1960) comprised a detailed description of the MRI principles, as was confirmed more recently. Originally this application was rejected as "unrealizable". However, in 1984 an Invention Certificate № 1112266 " A method for determination of internal structure of material objects" was finally issued in 1984, only after this method was demonstrated in other countries.

After leaving the military, Ivanov returned to Leningrad, where he enrolled in Saint Petersburg Electrotechnical University, which he graduated from in 1966 with a PhD in Engineering. In 1967 he became a lab director at "Elektroavtomatika" design bureau, and in 1969 a lab director at D.I. Mendeleyev Institute for Metrology (VNIIM). In 1980 he received his habilitation, and 1984 he was promoted to the rank of professor at ITMO University.

Despite his failure to commercialize his MRI invention, Ivanov continued his career as a prolific inventor. His name is listed on over 100 patents. He was a developer of apparatuses for space, aviation, marine and underground applications. He was the lead designer of two Soviet National standards: of angular velocity and of acceleration. Ivanov was a member of the American Mathematical Society and the International Society of Automation.

Ivanov wrote over 300 books and articles, including 3 books of poetry (published in 1991, 1997, and 1999).

2003 Nobel Prize laureates
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