How a Recording Company, a Rock Band and a Nobel Laureate Developed Computed Tomography
Anthony A. Caldamone, MD1, Sutchin R. Patel, MD2.
1Hasbro Children's Hospital, Brown University School of Medicine, Providence, RI, USA, 2Department of Urology, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI, USA.
INTRODUCTION A Nobel laureate, one of the most important recording companies of the 20th century and one of the most influential musical groups of all time come together to develop computed tomography (CT).
METHODS We reviewed the medical literature regarding the life of Sir Godfrey Hounsfield, the history of Electrical Musical Industries, Ltd (EMI) and the Beatles in reference to the development of CT.
RESULTS During World War II, EMI played a crucial role in the war effort, working on radar systems for the allies. After the war, EMI would translate its electronic prowess into the recorded music business. In 1955 it would purchase Capitol Records and with the growth of the music industry in the 1950s, EMI would sign the Beatles. With the meteoric rise of the Beatles, EMIís profits rose 80% in their first year after signing the Beatles. Sir Godfrey Hounsfield, an English electrical engineer, served in the Royal Air Force during World War II as an instructor in radar mechanics. After the war he began his scientific career in 1951 working for EMI. He helped design and construct the first solid-state (transistor) computer in England in 1959. In 1967 Hounsfield began developing what would become the first CT-scanner. By directing x-ray beams through the body at 1 degree angles, with a detector rotating in tandem on the other side, he could measure the attenuation of the x-rays. These values were then analyzed via a mathematical algorithm to produce a 2-dimensional image of the slice of the body. Hounsfield worked with Jamie Ambrose, a radiologist, to conduct the first clinical CT-scan at Atkinson Morley Hospital in 1971 in a patient with a brain tumor. In 1971, EMI entered the medical equipment business marketing the CT-scanner using its previous sales from the recording industry (much of it due to the Beatles) to help finance its new venture. By 1976, the CT industry was booming and EMI could not produce enough CT-scanners to fill demand. In the end, as other companies would enter the CT market, EMI would have a hard dayís night maintaining its monopoly and would eventually get back to the music industry. Allan MacLeod, a South African physicist, working independently of Hounsfield developed the same theory on how x-rays could be utilized to image the body. Both Hounsfield and MacLeod, neither with a medical background, would win the 1979 Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology for inventing the CT-scanner.
CONCLUSION Let it be known that it was only yesterday when a recording company, a band and a radar scientist revolutionized medical imaging and radiology with the development of the CT-scanner.
[Bonus: Can you find the names of 7 Beatles songs hidden in this abstract?]
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