Physi­cist Pe­ter Mans­field was a No­bel lau­re­ate who helped de­velop the MRI med­i­cal di­ag­nos­tic tool.

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - PE­TER MANS­FIELD, 83 BY MATT SCHUDEL matt.schudel@wash­post.com

Pe­ter Mans­field, a British physi­cist who re­ceived the No­bel Prize for dis­cov­er­ies that led to the devel­op­ment of mag­netic res­o­nance imag­ing, a rev­o­lu­tion­ary di­ag­nos­tic ad­vance in medicine that helped doc­tors de­tect can­cer and ex­am­ine the brain and in­ter­nal or­gans, died Feb. 8. He was 83. The University of Not­ting­ham in Eng­land, where he was a physics pro­fes­sor, an­nounced his death but re­leased no de­tails.

Dr. Mans­field, who grew up in a Lon­don slum and was told by a school guid­ance coun­selor that he had no fu­ture in sci­ence, was a printer’s ap­pren­tice be­fore his cu­rios­ity and de­ter­mi­na­tion led him to a life in sci­ence.

In the 1970s, he de­vised meth­ods to pro­duce three-di­men­sional images from MRI ma­chines that al­lowed physi­cians to peer into the in­ner work­ings of the body in real time.

Be­fore non­in­va­sive MRI ma­chines came into wide­spread use in the 1980s, pa­tients of­ten un­der­went po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous X-ray ex­am­i­na­tions or had tis­sue sur­gi­cally re­moved for study. Dr. Mans­field vol­un­teered to be the first per­son to un­dergo an MRI scan to prove its ef­fec­tive­ness and safety.

“His work is cor­rectly cred­ited with chang­ing the face of mod­ern medicine,” Colin Blake­more, then the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Bri­tain’s Med­i­cal Re­search Coun­cil, said in 2003.

By the time Dr. Mans­field was awarded the 2003 No­bel Prize in phys­i­ol­ogy or medicine, which he shared with the U.S. sci­en­tist Paul Lauter­bur, mil­lions of MRI scans were be­ing con­ducted each year on pa­tients around the world.

The sci­ence be­hind MRI has been known since the 1940s, when physi­cists dis­cov­ered that the nu­clei in cer­tain atoms spin in pre­dictable ways when sub­jected to a mag­netic field. The nu­clei also gain en­ergy when ex­posed to ra­dio waves. When the ra­dio waves are turned off, the nu­clei con­tinue to emit ra­dio sig­nals that can be mea­sured and used to iden­tify dif­fer­ent atomic struc­tures.

Dr. Mans­field had fo­cused his early re­search on us­ing those prin­ci­ples to iden­tify ob­jects be­neath the Earth’s sur­face. But in the early 1970s, he learned that Lauter­bur, then at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, had used MRI tech­niques to pro­duce two-di­men­sional images.

By mea­sur­ing sig­nals from hy­dro­gen atoms, Lauter­bur was able to draw a vis­ual dis­tinc­tion be­tween or­di­nary wa­ter and “heavy wa­ter,” which has a dif­fer­ent atomic struc­ture. He later pro­duced in­ter­nal images of living clams and mice.

Dr. Mans­field built on Lauter­bur’s dis­cov­er­ies, us­ing math­e­mat­i­cal meth­ods to de­velop fast, ef­fi­cient ways to trans­form the mag­net­i­cally charged atomic ra­dio sig­nals into three-di­men­sional images. In time, MRI scans could be used to iden­tify dif­fer­ent tis­sues and or­gans through­out the body, be­com­ing im­mensely im­por­tant in medicine.

“Most peo­ple don’t think about where MRI scan­ners come from,” Dr. Mans­field told Bri­tain’s Daily Mir­ror news­pa­per in 2009. “But I feel very pleased and proud when I re­ceive letters from pa­tients, thank­ing me for sav­ing their lives.”

Pe­ter Mans­field was born Oct. 9, 1933, in Lon­don. His fa­ther was a gas fit­ter, his mother a wait­ress. The fam­ily of­ten lived in poverty.

Be­cause of Ger­man air raids on Lon­don dur­ing World War II, Dr. Mans­field was evac­u­ated three times and spent part of the war years with a fam­ily in Devon­shire. He com­piled a col­lec­tion of frag­ments from Ger­man rock­ets — “I knew all about rock­ets from the wrong end,” he said. But the boy re­ceived lit­tle aca­demic en­cour­age­ment and left school at 15 to be­come a printer’s ap­pren­tice.

He at­tended night school and at 18 found a job with the rocket propul­sion depart­ment of Bri­tain’s Sup­ply Min­istry. Af­ter serv­ing two years in the British army, he re­ceived a schol­ar­ship and stud­ied physics at what was then Queen Mary Col­lege at the University of Lon­don. He re­ceived a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in 1959 and a doc­tor­ate in 1962.

Dr. Mans­field spent two years as a post­doc­toral fel­low at the University of Illi­nois at Ur­banaCham­paign be­fore join­ing the University of Not­ting­ham fac­ulty in 1964. He re­tired in 1994 but con­tin­ued to work at his lab­o­ra­tory for many years af­ter.

He held patents on sev­eral key parts of the MRI ma­chine, which made him well off. He was knighted in 1993 and pub­lished an au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, “The Long Road to Stock­holm,” in 2013.

Sur­vivors in­clude his wife of 54 years, the for­mer Jane Kib­ble; two daugh­ters; and four grand­chil­dren.

Soon af­ter it was an­nounced that Dr. Mans­field and Lauter­bur had won the No­bel Prize, an­other early MRI re­searcher, Ray­mond Da­ma­dian, took out full-page ad­ver­tise­ments in The Wash­ing­ton Post and the New York Times head­lined“The Shame­ful Wrong That Must Be Righted.”

Da­ma­dian, the founder of a U.S. com­pany that pro­duces MRI ma­chines, com­plained that his con­tri­bu­tions had been slighted and charged the No­bel com­mit­tee with an “in­ex­cus­able dis­re­gard for the truth.”

Most ex­perts ac­cused Da­ma­dian of sour grapes and said the mod­ern MRI grew di­rectly out of the dis­cov­er­ies of Lauter­bur and Dr. Mans­field.

“In my opin­ion, Paul Lauter­bur and Pe­ter Mans­field de­serve the No­bel Prize,” Alex Pines, a sci­en­tist at the University of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley, told The Post in 2003. “In a leap of cre­ative ge­nius, they came up with the gra­di­ent imag­ing method­ol­ogy that forms the ba­sis for what to­day is known as MRI.”

SANG TAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS

SVEN NACKSTRAND/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE VIA GETTY IMAGES

TOP: Dr. Pe­ter Mans­field poses for a por­trait in front of an MRI scan­ner at Not­ting­ham University in Eng­land on Oct. 6, 2003. He helped pi­o­neer the imag­ing tech­nol­ogy. ABOVE: Dr. Mans­field, left, re­ceives the 2003 No­bel Prize in phys­i­ol­ogy or medicine from Swe­den's King Carl XVI Gustaf in Stock­holm on Dec. 10, 2003.

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