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Pioneer in magnetic resonance imaging to receive National Academy of Sciences Award

James E. Kloeppel, Physical Sciences Editor
(217) 244-1073;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Paul C. Lauterbur, a pioneer in the development of magnetic resonance imaging and director of the Biomedical Magnetic Resonance Laboratory at the University of Illinois, will receive the 2001 National Academy of Sciences Award for Chemistry in Service to Society.

Lauterbur is being recognized "for his research on nuclear magnetic resonance and its applications in chemistry and medicine, and his contributions to the development of magnetic resonance imaging in medicine."

The award, given every two years, will be presented April 30 at the NAS meeting in Washington, D.C.

Chartered by Congress in 1863, the NAS has about 1,900 members and 300 foreign associates.

Lauterbur was among the first scientists to use nuclear magnetic resonance in the studies of molecules, solutions and solids. He was the first researcher to produce an image with NMR and apply the technology to medicine.

This led to the development of the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner, which has had a revolutionary impact on the medical profession. Magnetic resonance imaging works by placing the body in a powerful magnetic field that causes the nuclei of atoms to align. Pulsing radio waves cause them to resonate, sending out radio signals. The signals are collected, interpreted by a computer and assembled into a picture somewhat similar to an X-ray image.

MRI scanners allow medical specialists to safely diagnose diseases of the head and neck, spinal cord, pelvic organs, heart and joints without using invasive surgery or potentially harmful X-rays.

Lauterbur is a Center for Advanced Study professor of chemistry, and in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, the bioengineering program, the Center for Biophysics and Computational Biology, the department of medical information sciences in the College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign, and the neuroscience program.

He also is on the faculty of the UI College of Medicine at Chicago. Lauterbur joined the UI faculty in 1985, after 22 years at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

He earned a bachelorÕs degree in chemistry in 1951 from the Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland, and a doctorate in chemistry in 1962 from the University of Pittsburgh.

Among his awards are the Kyoto Prize from the Inamori Foundation of Japan in recognition of his lifelong research accomplishments in advanced technology (1994); the Order of Lincoln Medallion, the state of IllinoisÕ highest award (1992); the Franklin Institute of PhiladelphiaÕs Bower Award for Achievement in Science (1990); the National Medal of Technology (1988); the National Medal of Science (1987); and the Albert Lasker Clinical Research Award (1984).

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society.