September 7, 2004 by

Godfrey Hounsfield


Categories: Medicine, Scientists

ghounsfield.jpgSir Godfrey Newbold Hounsfield, a British electrical engineer and Nobel laureate who pioneered the development of the CAT scan, died on Aug. 12. Cause of death was not released. He was 84.
Although Hounsfield was born near Newark, England, and raised on a farm, his interest in science developed at an early age. As a teen, he built a phonograph from spare parts, several radio sets and a water-jet-propelled glider. Upon receiving his radio communications qualification certificate, Hounsfield joined the Royal Air Force in 1939. During World War II, he learned enough about radar technology to teach it to other technicians.
Hounsfield returned to the classroom after the war to earn a degree in electrical and mechanical engineering from the Faraday House Electrical Engineering College in London. He then became a project engineer at Electrical and Musical Instrument Ltd., heading the design team that created the EMIDEC 1100, the first all-transistor computer in Britain.
In 1967, Hounsfield was taking a walk through the countryside when he first dreamed of a machine that could process hundreds of X-ray beams to obtain an internal display of a box. Inside the EMI research laboratory, Hounsfield designed a prototype computerized tomography scanner and used it to view the interior of a cow’s brain. A patent for the prototype CT scanner was granted to him in 1972.
Unbeknownst to Hounsfield, South African physicist Allan M. Cormack had also dreamed of a similar device. Instead of building the machine, however, Cormack wrote the first theoretical papers on the CT-scan system. The two scientists won the 1979 Nobel Prize in medicine and met at the award ceremony. Cormack died in 1998.
“CAT” scan machines, which take non-invasive, three-dimensional images of the human body, are now used in hospitals worldwide to diagnose a wide variety of medical conditions. The images produced by these machines are measured in Hounsfield units. Hounsfield also won the 1972 MacRobert award from the Council of Engineering Institutions. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1975 and knighted in 1981.

5 Responses to Godfrey Hounsfield

  1. J Seymour

    I had the pleasure of sharing an office with Sir Godfrey when I worked in the offices he worked at a few years ago (he worked in a consultancy basis). He was a humble and polite man and it is a great loss.

  2. Dr. David A. Bennett

    The creative genius of Sir Godfrey has been of inestimatable benefit to all of mankind. We may never see another like him within our lifetime.

  3. Jack Emge

    As someone who worked for EMI Medical and met Godfrey in St Louis Mo, I would like to know if anyone knows where He is buried ?

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