Issue Date: April 25, 2011
NMR And MRI Share Landmark Status
The related developments of commercial nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry (NMR) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)—which have revolutionized the practice of chemistry and medicine—were recently honored by the American Chemical Society as its 68th National Historic Chemical Landmark.
The landmark designation was marked with two ceremonies. MRI was honored with a celebration on March 11 at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. And on April 8, celebrants gathered at Agilent Technologies, a measurement company in Santa Clara, Calif., to recognize NMR advances.
Varian—whose scientific instrument company is now part of Agilent—introduced the A-60, the first commercially successful NMR spectrometer, in 1960. NMR was originally developed by physicists, but the affordability, reliability, and compact construction of the A-60 allowed chemists to use the technique to perform nondestructive analyses to elucidate molecular structures. What had previously taken chemists a month to determine could be done in hours, leading to NMR’s widespread use.
Stony Brook chemistry professor Paul C. Lauterbur used a Varian A-60 to take the science even further, demonstrating that NMR could generate multidimensional images. The discovery eventually led to the development of MRI, an important medical diagnostic tool for the noninvasive examination of body tissues such as the brain, heart, and other muscles. MRI scanning allows for early detection of cancer and other diseases. Lauterbur shared the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his role in the development of MRI.
At the Stony Brook ceremony, ACS President Nancy B. Jackson presented the landmark plaque to John H. Marburger III, the university’s vice president for research. And Lauterbur’s widow, Joan Dawson, noted that the development of MRI originated in a “eureka” moment while Lauterbur was eating a hamburger at a local restaurant in 1971.
During the Agilent celebration, Abby Kennedy, chair of the ACS Santa Clara Valley Section, presented the landmark plaque to Nick Roelofs, president of Agilent Life Sciences Group.
ACS grants landmark status to seminal achievements in the history of chemical science and technology, including individual discoveries, bodies of work, resources, advances, or artifacts. Prospective landmarks can be nominated by ACS local sections, divisions, or committees. The landmarks committee reviews nominees, and the ACS Board of Directors approves them.
By recognizing landmark achievements of chemists, chemical engineers, and the chemical enterprise, the program is intended to enhance the public’s appreciation of the contributions of the chemical sciences and chemical engineering and to increase the sense of pride in their practitioners.
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