Manuscripts and Special Collections

Magnetic Resonance Imaging introduction

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a medical imaging technique, in which MRI scanners use strong magnetic fields and radio waves to generate images of the organs in the body.  Its introduction changed the face of modern medicine, enabling doctors to see detailed images of the interior of the living body without the potentially harmful effects of radiation or surgery.  It can now detect in great detail the presence of cancer and signs of damage in the body’s bones, tissues and organs.  Today, MRI scanners are used in hospitals all over the world and over 60 million investigations with MRI are carried out every year.

Colour photo of large red torus-shaped magnet coils, on a laboratory bench.  This image is from the papers of Brian Worthington, held by Manuscripts and Special Collections.  Document reference PBW/12/24.

Magnet used in early MRI experiments at Nottingham (PBW/12/240/2)

Whilst MRI is best known for its uses in diagnostic medicine, it also has many applications in non-medical contexts.  For example MRI, and nuclear magnetic resonance techniques in general, are used in the routine analysis of chemicals, monitoring fluid flow in pipes, and studying the structure of complex molecules.

The University of Nottingham has played a central role in the development of MRI ever since the concept was first introduced.  This role is highlighted by several archive collections held by Manuscripts and Special Collections.  These are the collections of Professor Sir Peter Mansfield, Professor Raymond Andrew and Professor Brian Worthington, who were all heavily involved in MRI research in Nottingham, together with associated records of the British Radiofrequency Spectroscopy Group.  The collections contain material such as research notes, published papers and books, patents, conference papers and lecture notes, correspondence, slides, photographs, videotapes and personal papers.  Together they form a unique research resource for the study of the development of MRI at Nottingham, with important implications for our understanding of the past, present and future of large-scale medical innovation.  

These Magnetic Resonance Imaging webpages provide an introduction to the MRI-related collections and their contents.  These pages were created following the cataloguing of around 250 boxes of material from the collections in 2018 - 2019, with support from a Wellcome Trust Research Resources award.  

Manuscripts and Special Collections is actively seeking to expand these MRI collections, and would be interested to hear about further material relating to the development of MRI at Nottingham.

Next page: Sir Peter Mansfield


Manuscripts and Special Collections

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