CAT Scan invented by South African
African Inventions – CAT Scan
South African born Allan M Cormack & English Godfrey N Hounsfield won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1979 for work that resulted in the design & creation of the CAT scan – A familiar & essential piece of equipment now available in many hospitals worldwide.
Unusual Circumstances around this joint Nobel Prize
There are some unusual circumstances around this award.
Neither of the two men held a medical or science doctorate
They never collaborated directly / worked together
Their research was done totally independently from each other
Cormack was born in Johannesburg in 1924, & educated at Rondebosch Boys’ High in Cape Town. He went on to study further in the same city, & was awarded his B.Sc in physics in ’44, followed by his M.Sc in crystallography in ’45 from UCT.
A few years after completing his degrees he spent time UK as a research student at St. John’s College in England, but returned to lecture at UCT in 1950. His wife was American, & the couple moved to the USA where he became a professor at Tufts University. He naturalised as a citizen of the USA in ’66.
His interest in x-ray technology developed in ’56 while he was at UCT & Groote Schuur Hospital, & it was this work that resulted in papers that were published years later in the Journal of Applied Physics. These results provided the theoretical basis for the development of the CT scan – Solving the limitations of the x-ray. Despite the delay between his work & the publishing of his findings in ’63 & ’64, even more time passed before the information was put to good use.
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Godfrey Hounsfield was born in England in 1919. After learning the basics of electronics & radar in the air force, he studied at Faraday House Electrical Engineering College & left with a Diploma. He was employed by the EMI & researched radar & guided weapon technology. He was also exposed to computers, & involved in designing the first commercially viable (transistor) model. Following that success he started work on the CT Scanner & after combining Cormack’s theory with his own expertise he made improvements which resulted in the production of a full body scanner in ’75.
The two men were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1979 for “the development of computer assisted tomography”
Hounsfield received the Wilhelm Exner Medal in ’74, was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in ’75, appointed Commander of the British Empire in ’76, awarded the N Potts medal in ’77 & knighted in ’81.
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