Birthday: August 28, 1919
Died At Age: 84
Sun Sign: Virgo
Born in: Newark-on-Trent, United Kingdom
Famous as: Developer of X-ray computed tomography
Died on: August 12, 2004
awards: 1979 - Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
1976 - Gairdner Foundation International Award
1975 - Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award
Sir Godfrey Newbold Hounsfield was an electrical engineer from England who was one of the co-recipients of the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. He pioneered the designing of the CT scanner, thereby creating a mark in the history of radiology. He was the joint recipient of the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. Godfrey Hounsfield studied the basics of radar and electronics while serving at the Royal Air Force during World War II. He later obtained a Diploma from the Faraday House Electrical Engineering College and joined EMI Ltd to pursue research. He guided the design team to build Britain’s initial all-transistor computer, named the EMIDEC 110. He later shifted to work at the EMI Central Research Laboratories. While working here he developed the idea of computerized tomography scan. He introduced this novel concept of medical imaging that was painless, fast and made effective use of the permitted X ray dose. He shared the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with physicist Allan McLeod Cormack ‘for the development of computer assisted tomography’. He later went on to develop the first whole body scanner. Post his retirement, he focused on studying concepts like nuclear magnetic resonance and diagnostic imaging.
Childhood & Early Life
Sir Godfrey Newbold Hounsfield was born on 25 August 1919, at Nottinghamshire, England. He was the youngest of five children and had two older sisters and two brothers.
He spent his childhood close to Nottinghamshire as his father owned a farm there. From an early age was interested in gadgets and machines and was fond of experimenting with them to develop something new. In fact, he made his own home-made glider by the age of eighteen.
He attended school at the Magnus Grammar School in Newark-on-Trent and performed well in physics and mathematics.
In 1939, a short while before the World War II, he joined the Royal Air Force as a volunteer reservist. Here, he learnt the basics of electronics and radar.
Post war, he joined a specialist electrical engineering college, namely, Faraday House Electrical Engineering College, London and graduated with the Diploma of Faraday House.
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In 1949, he joined EMI Group in Middlesex and along with conducting research on guided weapons and radar, he operated a design laboratory. It was during this time that he developed a passion for computers.
In 1958, he led a team that designed the first all-transistor computer developed in Britain—the EMIDEC 1100. He was later shifted to work at the EMI Central Research Laboratories at Hayes.
After his initial project at the EMI Central Research Laboratories involving the designing of a store with a million word immediate access thin-film computer was abandoned, he went on a break to contemplate other effective research ideas.
In 1967, he introduced the concept of developing a software that enabled compilation of x-rays of an object taken from various angles that is then arranged as a 3D image representation. This idea went on to become the idea behind the development of the EMI-Scanner and the method of computed tomography.
He developed a prototype head scanner. Initially, he tested it on a preserved human brain, animal brain and later on himself.
In 1971, computerized tomography scan or CT scan was introduced into medical practice with the scan of a cerebral cyst of a patient. Several years later, in 1975 he developed a whole body scanner.
After his retirement from the laboratory in 1984, he worked as a consultant, and took interest in several other projects like studying nuclear magnetic resonance and diagnostic imaging. He continued his research in CT technology to consistently improve and identify advancements.
Awards & Achievements:
He was the recipient of the Wilhelm Exner Medal in 1974.
He was awarded the Lasker Award in 1975. The same year he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1975.
In 1976, he was awarded the Duddell Medal and Prize by the Institute of Physics.
He received the Mullard Award by the Royal Society in 1977. He was also awarded the Howard N. Potts Medal in the same year.
In 1979, Godfrey Hounsfield and Allan M. Cormack were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for the development of computer assisted tomography".
Personal Life & Legacy
Godfrey Hounsfield remained a bachelor throughout his life and was known to have spent most of his time studying science and at work.
His hobbies primarily included outdoor activities like trekking and skiing. However, he also enjoyed music and playing the piano.
He died on 12 August 2004, at Surrey, England, at the age of 84.
The Hounsfield scale (HU) also known as CT Numbers, a measurement for determining radio density, is named after Godfrey Hounsfield.