Hounsfield Facility: 3D X-ray imaging

Sir Godfrey Hounsfield

Sir Godfrey Hounsfield won the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for helping to develop the diagnostic imaging technique known as X-ray Computed Tomography (CT).

As an electrical engineer, he worked on some of the most important discoveries of the last century in the fields of physics and medicine including radar, computing and X-ray imaging. His discovery and development of X-ray CT revolutionised medical imaging, allowing fast and pain-free diagnosis of medical conditions and bringing health benefits to people all over the world.

Godfrey Newbold Hounsfield was born and raised on a farm near Nottingham. He was taught by an inspirational physics teacher, David Ashton, at Magnus School in Newark. However, he left school at age 16 with no qualifications. During the Second World War, he became an RAF radar instructor and was involved in improving radar design. Following the war, Air Vice-Marshal Cassidy helped Godfrey obtain a grant to study electric motor design at Faraday House in 1946.

In 1949 he joined EMI where he worked on radar and computers. He led the design team for the EMIDEC 1100 computer which was hundreds of times more reliable than earlier computers because it used an ingenious combination of transistors and magnetic toroids. Godfrey, who had no medical knowledge, first proposed CT scanning in 1967 (the idea coming to him while he mused on the contents of a picnic basket during a summer walk). However, most radiologists did not immediately see its value. Apart from some backing from the Department of Health, funding was a struggle until 1971, when the first CT scan in a hospital located a brain tumour. A whole-body scanner followed in 1974 and demand soared. Godfrey received many awards including the Nobel Prize in 1979 and a knighthood in 1981. Sir Godfrey Hounsfield died in August 2004, at the age of 84.

Sir Godfrey once said: “Each new discovery brings with it the seeds of other, future inventions. There are many discoveries, probably just around the corner, waiting for someone to bring them to life. Could this possibly be you?” That message resonates in our building.

Sir Godfrey Hounsfield - sketch

Early sketch of a CT scanner from Hounsfield's notepad

Sir Godfrey Hounsfield - Prototype
The first CT prototype


Hounsfield Facility

The University of Nottingham
Sutton Bonington
Loughborough, LE12 5RD

telephone: +44 (0) 1159 516786
email: craig.sturrock@nottingham.ac.uk