Godfrey N. Hounsfield

  • Year:

    1977

  • Subject:

    Life Science

  • Award:

    Potts

  • Citation:

    For the development of computerized axial tomography (CAT) for medical diagnostics.

Godfrey N. Hounsfield was born outside a small village in Nottinghamshire, England in 1919. He spent much of his childhood engaging in experiments of his own invention and deepening his interest in science. At the outbreak of World War II, he joined the Royal Air Force as a volunteer reservist and was taken on as a Radar Mechanic Instructor. He was moved to the then RAF-occupied Royal College of Science in South Kensington and later to Cranwell Radar School. At Cranwell, he occupied his spare time in building large-screen oscilloscope and demonstration equipment as aids to instruction. His work was appreciated, and he gained assistance in obtaining a grant to attend Faraday House Electrical Engineering College in London after the war.

Hounsfield joined the staff of EMI in Middlesex in 1951. While there, he led the design team that built the first all-transistor computer in Great Britain, the EMIDEC 1100, in 1958-59. Later, while investigating the problem of pattern recognition, he developed the basic idea of CAT (computer assisted tomography). Hounsfield extended the capability of a computer so that it could interpret X-ray signals so as to form a two-dimensional image of a complex object such as the human head. He pursued the application of axial tomography to medical diagnosis, building a prototype head scanner and then a body scanner at EMI. Computers soon evolved to the stage needed for processing the signals from the scanners at the same rate they were obtained, and in 1972 the first clinical test of CAT scanning was performed successfully.

Information as of 1977