Technology and techniques

The technological focus of the researchers interviewed here has been in medical imaging, especially in the development of MRI: a now widely-used and indispensable technology, both in anatomical mapping, as well as functional mapping of the human brain beyond spheres that were previously believed possible. 

Cameron, Dugald 

As an industrial design student in Glasgow in the 1960s, Professor Dugald Cameron discusses how he became involved in designing the first obstetric ultrasound scanners. He recalls his first informal meeting in Tom Brown’s flat, an engineer who was adapting technology used for flaw detection in ships to obstetric purposes. Cameron later became Director of The Glasgow School of Art, where he had studied. 

Frackowiak, Richard 

A medical graduate from Cambridge, Professor Richard Frackiowak pursued his fascination with neuroscience. He began work at the MRC Cyclotron unit in 1979, studying brain physiology with one of the first PET scanners to be installed in Britain. As well as having produced seminal and transformative research in modern neuroscience, he established the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging. He won the IPSEN and Wilhelm Feldberg prizes for his contributions to biomedicine.

Jones, Terry 

A key figure in advancing the frontiers of modern neuroscience, specifically in neuroimaging research, Professor Terry Jones was among the first to produce gamma camera images of brain blood flow in the 1960s. He installed one of Britain’s first PET scanners at Hammersmith Hospital in 1979, and since then he has produced a number of studies related to brain neurotransmission and pharmacokinetics. 

Lord, Philip

Starting out as a maths teacher, Mr Phillip Lord moved to the MRC Air Pollution Unit during the 1960s, where he was quickly promoted from technician to a member of scientific staff. While researching lung function and morphology, he set up a computer system inside the Unit, and also completed his MSc in mathematics. He went on to work in IT management for Elsevier and SmithKline Beecham. 

Marsh, Jonathan

Beginning his career as a Junior Technician at the National Institute for Medical Research, Mr Jon Marsh served there for more than 40 years, helping to develop electronic equipment such as an apnoea alarm, and athlete monitoring devices. He progressed to become Head Technician, and then Head of the Department of Engineering, providing electronics for insulin infusers among many other devices.

Mansfield, Peter 

A graduate in physics from Queen Mary University of London in 1956, Professor Sir Peter Mansfield’s early work in NMR paved the path for the development of the first MRI technology. His team presented their first human image in 1978: of Sir Peter’s abdomen. This technology has revolutionised imaging and diagnostics in modern medicine, for which he was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2003.

Norris, Keith

Trained as a biophysicist at King’s College London during the 1950s, Dr Keith Norris developed microscopy techniques for the study of nucleic acids alongside Dr Rosalind Franklin, and contributed to the discovery of DNA structure. He went on to research air pollution, directing studies of particle detection through infrared spectroscopy at the Microbiological Research Department, Porton Down. Subsequently, he worked for the Ministry of Defence and Home Office, developing and advising the government in chemical and biological defence. 

Pinder, Andrew

Graduating from Oxford in 1974, Dr Andrew Pinder obtained a PhD in 1983 while working at the NIMR’s engineering department on projects such as high-speed cell sorting and laser spectroscopy.  He moved into the field of science communication and eventually left research to found his own television company: Biopic Productions.

Ordidge, Roger 

Graduating with a doctorate in physics from Nottingham University in 1981, Professor Ordidge worked on the practical techniques which made medical MRI possible, advancing the technology by producing moving images and developing echo-planar imaging. As the Joel Professor of Physics Applied to Medicine at University College London, he studied the clinical application and safety of MRI technology, especially in vascular pathology such as stroke and neonatal asphyxia.

Rawlings, Chris

Trained in biophysics at the University of East London, Professor Chris Rawlings went on to work in the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, managing the innovative computer infrastructure for the Human Gene Mapping Workshops that were held in the UK in the 1990s. Moving into industry, he worked for SmithKline Beecham and Oxagen Ltd in bioinformatics and genomic technologies. From 2004, he led the Department of Computational and Systems Biology at the charitable body, Rothamstead Research.

Sawkins, John

After working in the domestic radio and television sector, Mr John Sawkins received a Digital Logic Techniques qualification from City and Guilds University in 1980. He became a technician at the National Institute for Medical Research in 1981, and in this interview he remembers his varying jobs and responsibilities over the four decades he spent there: from fixing projectors, to repairing spectrophotometers, and appraising health and safety methods.

Will, Eric

After graduating from medicine at Guy’s Hospital, Dr Eric Will completed his MD in Leiden University, developing an interest in nephrology. He then took a post as Senior Registrar in Nephrology at Nottingham Hospital in the mid-70s. Recognising a need for the collation and analysis of clinical data, Eric formed what would eventually become the UK Renal Registry, for which he was the Secretary from 1995 to 2005. 

Witness Seminars

Making the Human Body Transparent: The Impact of NMR and MRI; Research in General Practice; Drugs in Psychiatric Practice; The MRC Common Cold Unit 

Looking at the Unborn: Historical aspects of obstetric ultrasound

Development of Physics Applied to Medicine in the UK, 1945-1990

Early Development of Total Hip Replacement

History of Dialysis in the UK: c. 1950-1980

Air Pollution Research in Britain c.1955–c.2000

Technology, Techniques, and Technicians at the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) c.1960-c.2000