Raymond Damadian's intense curiosity and passion for science led him to develop the first MR (Magnetic Resonance) Scanning Machine—one of the most useful diagnostic tools of our time. MR scanners use radio signals emitted from the body's cells to enable a non-invasive mapping of the human body in meticulous detail. For his pioneering work in magnetic resonance scanning technology, Raymond Damadian was awarded the Lemelson-MIT Program's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001.
As a professor at the State University of New York Health Science Center in Brooklyn, Damadian and a colleague successfully mapped potassium deposits using a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) device. This prompted Damadian to think of potential applications for NMR technology in medicine. He realized that "if you could ever get this technology to provide the chemistry of the human body…you could spark an unprecedented revolution in medicine." Inspired by his grandmother who died from breast cancer, Damadian's goal was to develop a device to x-ray the tissues of the human body and detect disease.
With help from his graduate assistants, Damadian completed the first MR scanner in 1977, named Indomitable, because of the seven years of arduous work it entailed. Since Damadian was too big to fit in the device, his thinner assistant Larry Minkoff, underwent the first human scan by Indomitable on July 2, 1977. Damadian obtained a patent for his design in 1974 and established the FONAR Corporation in 1978, which introduced the first commercial MRI scanner in 1980.
Damadian has received over 45 patents (some co-invented) for improvements to his MRI scanner. Among his innovations are a full-sized MRI operating room that allows unrestricted patient access and can fit a surgical team and equipment, and the Stand-Up MRI™—the only scanner capable of scanning patients while standing. Though FONAR has faced opposition from competitors throughout the years, Damadian has persistently fought patent infringement, and as a result, continues to be an ardent advocate of the independent inventor.
Born in 1936 in Forest Hills, NY, Damadian attended Julliard School of Music, until he won a scholarship (at age 16) to the University of Wisconsin, where he received a BS in mathematics (1956), succeeded by an MD from the Albert Einstein School of Medicine of Yeshiva University (1960). Damadian is an inductee of the National Inventors Hall of Fame (1989) and a recipient of the National Medal of Technology (1988).
In April 2008, Damadian was presented with the Caring Award by the Leslie Munzer Neurological Institute of Long Island (LMNI) for his invention of the MRI and his current work at FONAR. The Caring Award was bestowed upon four other recipents.