Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre

A Brief History of Magnetic Resonance at Nottingham

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 grew up in London during the war, a fact that made him interested in science. Early on he was told he didn’t have the qualifications to become a scientist, but his dogged determination drove him to get a physics degree from Queen Mary College, London (now QMUL) at the age of 26. His life story is described in his autobiography.

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. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 2003 with Paul Lauterbur. Click here for more information.