Lauterbur, Paul Christian
US chemist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2003 for his contributions to the development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). He shared the award with English physicist Peter Mansfield.
Lauterbur was the first to show that introducing gradients in a magnetic field could be used to generate two-dimensional images. He determined that by analysing the characteristics of radio waves emitted as the magnetic field passed through an object, a two-dimensional picture of the scanned object could be constructed. This technique was called magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In 1973, Lauterbur demonstrated that the addition of gradient magnets allowed cross-sectional images of a heavy-water cylinder surrounded by normal water to be obtained. This was the first time that an imaging technique was able to determine the difference between the two types of water. The ability to image internal organs using a non-invasive, accurate method is of enormous importance for medical diagnosis and treatment - MRI is such a technique.
Lauterbur was born in Urbana, Illinois, and was awarded his PhD in chemistry by the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1962. He was professor of chemistry at New York University at Stony Brook, New York, from 1969 to 1985. Lauterbur then joined the College of Medicine of the University of Illinois at Chicago, and was professor there 1985-90. From 1985 Lauterbur held the positions of professor and director at the Biomedical Magnetic Resonance Laboratory of the College of Medicine of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. Lauterbur became a member of the US National Academy of Sciences in 1985 and in 2001 that body presented him with an award for Chemistry in Service to Society.
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