Professor Lauterbur inducted to Inventors Hall of Fame

By Pamela Nisivaco

After about 30 years of research and development of magnetic resonance imaging, better known as MRI, Paul Lauterbur received the Nobel Prize in 2003. Now, Lauterbur will receive another award for his work on MRI.

Lauterbur, Center for Advanced Study professor of chemistry at the University, was publicly announced to have achieved membership into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio. He is honored for his work as a key developer of MRI.

Lauterbur said that his induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame was a bit of an anti-climax after a Nobel Prize. But, he has since learned that a very impressive group of people are being inducted.

MRI is well-known for its medical use of providing comprehensive pictures of internal organs and tissues. Lauterbur said, however, that although MRI was mainly used for clinical purposes in the early ’80s, it strongly developed after that and came into use in other areas, such as industrial labs.

He first began his work on MRI in 1971 and published the first paper on it in 1973. Some of his research took place at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in Long Island and some here at the University. After 30 years of working on it, he left that field of research to pursue other endeavors in chemistry.

However, he said there is no completion to the research of MRI, which is still under development.

“There is a continuing research program of improving and extending the broad technology,” he said.

Arriving at the University in 1985, Lauterbur was involved in running specialized research labs for many years. He said that he now spends all his time on any activities involving chemistry.

The National Inventors Hall of Fame was established in 1973 to honor important inventors from across the world named on a U.S. patent. However, Lauterbur never got a patent on MRI.

“Most people inducted have important patents,” Lauterbur said. “I guess I was an exception to that rule.”

In May, the National Inventors Hall of Fame is hosting an induction ceremony. Although Lauterbur does not plan to attend, his family is going to be there to represent him.

“My daughter represented me in Washington at the official induction announcement,” he said.

His son plans to represent him at the induction ceremony and his other daughter, who is attending college in northern Ohio, would like to attend the induction as well.

“It is a very gratifying honor,” Lauterbur said.