Armenian-American Raymond Vahan Damadian, M.D., the inventor of the first Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanning machine, passed away at age 86 on August 3, 2022.
Damadian was a physician, medical practitioner, mathematician, and inventor. He was born in New York on March 16, 1936, to an Armenian Genocide survivor.
Dr. Damadian was the first to perform a full-body scan of a human being on July 3, 1977, to diagnose cancer. He performed the scan on his assistant Larry Minkoff’s chest.
The MRI is widely recognized as one of the great medical breakthroughs of the 20th century, and his invention has undoubtedly impacted, saved, and enhanced millions of lives.
He invented an apparatus and method to use NMR safely and accurately to scan the human body, a method now well known as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
His research into sodium and potassium in living cells led him to his first experiments with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), which caused him to first propose the MR body scanner in 1969. He discovered that tumors and normal tissue could be distinguished in vivo by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) because of their prolonged relaxation times, both T1 (spin-lattice relaxation) or T2 (spin-spin relaxation).
Damadian decided to take his invention and start his own business – the FONAR Corporation. FONAR was incorporated in 1978 and sold its first commercial MRI scanner in 1980. For over 40 years, Dr. Damadian poured his heart and soul into this company.
Timothy Damadian, Dr. Damadian’s son and President and CEO of FONAR, said, “Dr. Damadian was a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather, a brother, an uncle, and a friend to many. He leaves behind three adoring children, nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.”
“His persistence in the face of great adversity, especially among the scientific community, and his intense passion for trying to cure cancer led to the invention of a machine that has undoubtedly impacted and saved millions of lives,” he added.
He was named Knights of Vartan 2003 “Man of the Year.” In 1988 he shared the U.S.A. National Medal for Technology with Paul Lauterbur for their development of MRI. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1989.
He collaborated with Wilson Greatbach, one early developer of the implantable pacemaker, to develop an MRI-compatible pacemaker. The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia recognized Damadian’s work on MRI with the Bower Award in Business Leadership.
Damadian has received several prizes. In 2001, the Lemelson-MIT Prize Program bestowed its $100,000 Lifetime Achievement Award on Damadian as “the man who invented the MRI scanner.”