The story of MRI — told by one of the scientists who made it possible

08 Feb 2013 10:29:45.080

PA 41/13

At the age of 15 he was told he didn’t have the qualifications to become a scientist. Today Sir Peter Mansfield, from The University of Nottingham, holds a Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine for his role in the development of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). 

Now for the first time he has told the story of his pioneering research. His autobiography The Long Road to Stockholm charts the journey of a young boy who grew up in Camberwell, whose career advisor told him he would never become a scientist, and who went on to receive the highest accolade for scientific endeavour — an honour he shared with Paul Lauterbur.

The book is a frank and very personal account of the trials and tribulations of pushing the boundaries of scientific research to the limit. On Tuesday 12 February 2013 Sir Peter, who turns 80 this year, will attend the official launch of his autobiography at The University of Nottingham.



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Sir Peter, who joined The University of Nottingham in 1964, took a close and hands on approach to the development of the MRI scanner which has transformed diagnostic medicine and saved the lives of thousands of people. Sir Peter continues his work at the Sir Peter Mansfield Magnetic Resonance Imaging Centre to this day.

When he was 15 Sir Peter told his careers advisor that “he was quite interested in science”. It was pointed out that he had no qualifications and it was suggested that he might “consider a career in something less ambitious”. His response is an inspiration to all aspiring research students. Inspired by a distant cousin of his mother’s he never gave up on his dream of going to university.

He got a full time job at a local printing firm and enrolled for evening classes to get the qualifications he needed. He went on to work for the Rocket Propulsion Department at Westcott near Ayesbury and after his National Service he got a place at Queen Mary College, University of London. 

Sir Peter’s first paper on MRI was presented at the first Specialised Colloque Ampere in 1973. The first image of a living object was performed in 1974. The only thing Sir Peter and his team could squeeze into the tiny scanner was the finger of one of his students Andrew Maudsley. In 1978 Sir Peter offered himself as the first whole-body human volunteer. The risks of the equipment causing a possible heart attack were dismissed by this pioneering researcher.

At the time there were three competing groups at The University of Nottingham putting the institution at the heart of MRI research for many years. Led by Professor Peter Morris their work continues with research into the function of the human brain which could in the future yield answers to conditions such as schizophrenia and dementia.

In November 2009 Sir Peter’s outstanding research and major contribution to the health and wealth of our society was recognised by the Medical Research Council (MRC). As an MRC funded scientist he was awarded the research council’s Millennium Medal at a ceremony held at The University of Nottingham. 

The video embedded in this release was made to mark the MRC even in 2009. 

PHOTOCALL: The press are invited to attend the celebration to mark the publication of Sir Peter’s autobiography which will take place at 11am on Tuesday 12 February 2013 in the Council Dining Room, Trent Building, University Park, The University of Nottingham, NG7 2RD.

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottinghamhas 42,000 students at award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It was ‘one of the first to embrace a truly international approach to higher education’, according to the Sunday Times University Guide 2013. It is also one of the most popular universities among graduate employers, one of the world’s greenest universities, and winner of the Times Higher Education Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development’. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong and the QS World Rankings.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University aims to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for its research into global food security.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fundraising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…


Story credits

More information is available from Lindsay Brooke, Media Relations Manager at The University of Nottingham on +44 (0)115 951 5751.

Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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