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Chapter 31: 5-9

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Radioactive Tracers


The steps in my work between this initial idea and its realisation in the first clinical brain-scanner have already been well documented. As might be expected, the programme involved many frustrations, occasional awareness of achievement when particular technical hurdles were overcome, and some amusing incidents, not least the experiences of travelling across London by public transport carrying bullock's brains for use in evaluation of an experimental scanner rig in the Laboratories.

Godfrey N. Hounsfield — Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech 1979, for inventing the CT Scanner

Money from Beatles record sales helped fund the invention of the CT scan (also known as CAT scan), a medical tool used to take three dimensional photographs of the insides of people's bodies.

As recounted on the blog Epidemix, the story starts with Godfrey Hounsfield, a researcher at EMI back in the 1950s. Although it's a (somewhat struggling) major record label today, EMI--which stands for Electrical and Musical Industries*--was once an industrial research company. Hounsfield did some pioneering work on computers, helping to build the first all-transistor computer, but the division wasn't profitable for EMI and the company sold its computer business in 1962...right when it signed The Beatles. His standing was good enough with the company that they let him conduct independent research with funding from the Beatles' string of massive successes in the 1960s. He went on to invent the CT scanner, which EMI first released in 1972, and shared the 1979 Nobel Prize for medicine for his invention.

Matt Rosoff — C|Net July 22, 2008

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