On 1 October 1971 Jamie Ambrose, a consultant radiologist at Atkinson Morley’s Hospital in Wimbledon, made medical history by carrying out the first computed tomography scan on a live patient, revealing a detailed image of a brain tumour.
The scanner had been developed by Godfrey Hounsfield, an electronics engineer working for EMI, whose ideas for a new imaging technique had been falling on stony ground until supported by the Department of Health.
The radiology department at Atkinson Morley’s had for a long time been using specialised invasive radiological procedures but Ambrose wanted to find a non-invasive diagnostic method.
The Department of Health brought the clinician and the inventor together.
By 1969 development work had begun on what was to become the first computed tomography scanner. By August 1970 the pair had produced the design and specification of the first prototype scanner and, just over a year later, the first working model was ready.
Hounsfield announced the development at the British Institute of Radiology Congress in 1972. He modestly wrote that the technique of CT scanning might open up a new chapter in X-ray diagnosis.
While EMI had the advantage of being first in the field, immediate world wide appreciation of the advance led other companies to enter the field. Sadly, the development of this British invention passed into other countries’ hands.
- For a fuller account of these events, see www.nhshistory.net