Historical background

Naturally occurring magnets or lodestones were considered magical by the early inhabitants of Magnesia in modern Turkey—hence the word magnetism. Physical principles were formulated by Karl Friedrich Gauss in the eighteenth century. James Clerk Maxwell discovered the fundamental laws of electromagnetism in the nineteenth century. In 1946, Felix Bloch and Edward Mills Purcell independently reported the phenomenon of nuclear magnetic resonance ( NMR). For this discovery they were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1952. The technique was quickly taken up and magnetic resonance spectroscopy in vitro was developed over the following decades. In the late 1960s other technologies converged: superconducting magnets, computers, and image reconstruction techniques developed by Sir Godfrey Hounsfield for X-ray tomography were combined to produce the first in vivo magnetic resonance images in the early 1970s. Technological and engineering developments have continued apace, as have ideas for new imaging perspectives. The limits of MRI remain unreached.

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