Nottingham based Nobel laureate who failed his school exams before going on to pioneer MRI technology has died aged 83.
Professor Sir Peter Mansfield ‘changed the world for the better’ and left an ‘extraordinary legacy’ by creating the pioneering technology.
Born in London in 1933, the son of a gas fitter failed his 11-plus exam and left school at the age of 15.
Sir Peter, of Beeston, then worked as a printer’s assistant until his interest in rocketry secured him a job at the government’s rocket propulsion department in Westcott, where he studied for A-Levels part time.
He obtained a degree in physics at Queen Mary College and became a physics Professor at the University of Nottingham in 1964, forming the team that began developing MRI scanning in 1972.
Professor Sir Peter Mansfield harnessed nuclear magnetic resonance to visualise the internal structure of objects, creating the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners that we know today.
His family said: “It is with great sadness that Lady Mansfield and family would like to announce the passing away of Sir Peter, on Wednesday evening, 8 February.
“As well as being an eminent scientist and pioneer in his field, he was also a loving and devoted husband, father and grandfather who will be hugely missed by all the family.”
He remained at the University of Nottingham for the 30 years until his passing, and only last month joined former colleagues to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre on the campus.
“Few people can look back on a career and conclude that they have changed the world.”
Professor Sir David Greenaway, Vice-chancellor of the University, said: “Few people can look back on a career and conclude that they have changed the world. In pioneering MRI, that is exactly what Sir Peter Mansfield has done, he has changed our world for the better.
“As a scientific leader and a highly prized colleague, he will be greatly missed in our University. But he has left an extraordinary legacy which will continue to inspire others to change the world.”
Professor Peter Morris, who works at the School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “Today, MRI has lost the rock on which it was founded. Sir Peter’s pioneering research has revolutionised diagnostic medicine and all of us have felt its benefits.
“He has been the defining influence on my life as a supervisor, colleague and friend. We will not see his like again.”
In 1978, Sir Peter became the first person to step inside the very first whole-body scanner, so that it could be tested on a human subject — despite warnings that it could be potentially dangerous.
Sir Peter received world acclaim in 2003 alongside fellow physicist Paul Lauterber when they shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology and medicine.
When speaking about the development of the MRI, Sir Peter Mansfield, said: “I had the idea to convert what we were doing on multiple pass solids in to some effectively crude imaging system, and it went from strength to strength.
“We were able to get images – proper images – of their fingers, cross sectional, one at a time of course. By 1976 we were the first people to show that you could actually produce images of the human anatomy.”
His long career also included many other distinguished awards, including a knighthood, an MRC Millenium Medal, Fellowship of the Royal Society and a number of honorary degrees.