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EMI CT brain scanner, England, 1970-1971

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Developed in 1971 by EMI, this scanner allowed detailed pictures of patients’ brains to be seen for the first time. Godfrey Hounsfield (1914-2004) invented the technique, called computerised tomography (CT), which constructed a picture from measurements made by an X-ray source and detector rotating around the patient. Previously, X-rays could only image the brain after it had received hazardous injections of air or special liquids. The EMI brain scanner was the first to be adopted in substantial numbers for medicine. However, today Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has taken over much of the work of CT scanning. This example was installed at Atkinson Morley's Hospital in Wimbledon, London, a specialist neuroscience hospital.

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    Glossary: CT scanner

    A machine that performs a special form of X-ray examination. It fully rotates around the object to be scanned and the information is used to produce cross-sectional images by computer (a CT scan).

    Glossary: x-rays

    A wave of electromagnetic radiation that has high energy and short wavelength. It is able to pass through many materials, except those of high density such as metals or bones. Discovered in 1895 by William Roentgen.

    Glossary: MRI

    Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). A technique for producing high quality images of internal organs and tissues. MRI uses radio waves to achieve its results. It is particularly effective in detecting cancers.