Hounsfield, Sir Godfrey Newbold

Hounsfield, Sir Godfrey Newbold
▪ 2005

      British electrical engineer (b. Aug. 28, 1919, Newark, Nottinghamshire, Eng.—d. Aug. 12, 2004, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, Eng.), invented the CT (computed tomography) scanner, also known as the CAT (computerized axial tomography) scanner, a medical imaging device that revolutionized medical diagnosis. For the development of this imaging technique, Hounsfield received the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, which he shared with South African-born American physicist Allan M. Cormack, who had independently described a similar technique. After receiving a diploma from the Faraday House Electrical Engineering College, London, Hounsfield joined (1951) the research staff of Electric and Musical Industries (later EMI Ltd.). He led the EMI design team that built the first all-transistor computer in Great Britain (1958–59). In the late 1960s Hounsfield conceived the idea of a device that could show internal structure with more detail than was possible with conventional X-ray techniques. In a typical CT scanner, a series of X-ray exposures—produced by a beam of X-rays that sweeps across the body—is analyzed by a computer to create a detailed cross-sectional image of the body. After a period of development at EMI, the CT scanner was introduced in 1972. In addition to the Nobel Prize, Hounsfield received the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award (1975) and other awards. He was knighted in 1981.

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▪ British engineer
born August 28, 1919, Newark, Nottinghamshire, England
died August 12, 2004, Kingston upon Thames
 English electrical engineer who shared the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Allan Cormack (Cormack, Allan MacLeod) for his part in developing the diagnostic technique of computerized axial tomography (CAT), or computerized tomography (CT). In this technique, information obtained from X rays taken by scanners rotating around the patient are combined by a computer to yield a high-resolution image of a slice of the body.

      After studying electronics and radar as a member of the Royal Air Force during World War II and at Faraday House Electrical Engineering College in London, Hounsfield joined the research staff of EMI Ltd. in 1951. He led the design team that built the first all-transistor computer in Great Britain, the EMIDEC 1100, in 1958–59. Later, while investigating the problem of pattern recognition, he developed the basic idea of CAT. Hounsfield extended the capability of a computer so that it could interpret X-ray signals so as to form a two-dimensional image of a complex object such as the human head. He pursued the application of axial tomography to medical diagnosis, building a prototype head scanner and then a body scanner at EMI. Computers soon evolved to the stage needed for processing the signals from the scanners at the same rate they were obtained, and in 1972 the first clinical test of CAT scanning was performed successfully.

      For his work Hounsfield received numerous awards in addition to the Nobel Prize, and he was knighted in 1981.

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Universalium. 2010.


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