Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre

'Tributes to Sir Peter'

A Brief History of Magnetic Resonance at Nottingham

The beginning

The University of Nottingham has been at the centre of developments in Magnetic Resonance since its inception, and carried out much early, pioneering work in the mid-1970s. Before then, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) could only provide information from a whole sample, rather than about the internal structure of a sample. In the mid 1970s there were three groups in the then Department of Physics at the University of Nottingham, all working on NMR and subsequently MRI. The competition between them was fierce, but highly productive. Famous names from the early 1970s include Raymond Andrew, Sir Peter Mansfield, Peter Alan and Bill Derbyshire.

Early MRI was slow and produced coarse images, whereas nowadays MRI images can be exquisite in their detail. This change has been brought about by a combination of massive improvements in scanner hardware and the development of increasingly imaginative imaging methods. Nottingham has played its part in both of these.

Waldo Hinshaw produced this image of a spring onion in 1974

Sir Peter Mansfield

Sir Peter Mansfield's vision allowed him to understand how to transform NMR into a medical imaging technique, and also enabled him to foresee what would be required to make the technique clinically useful, and to identify early on, many of the potential areas of application for MRI in clinical medicine. His work was years ahead of its time.

Sir Peter was responsible for the introduction of new understanding of important aspects of the physics of NMR and image formation, as well as the invention of many of the techniques and features of the scanner equipment that were needed to make clinical MRI a reality.