Hounsfield, Godfrey

(1919-2004) British electrical engineer whose contributions to the creation of the computerized axial tomography scanner (the CAT scan) won him a share of the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1979. Hounsfield shared the award with the South African-born scientist Allan M. Cormack (1924-1998) who spent much of his career in the US.

Godfrey Hounsfield led a team that built the first all-transistor computer in the UK and then he applied that knowledge to the development of the CAT scanner, which relied on powerful computers to assemble its images. His prototype CAT scanner was designed only to examine the head. The Nobel Committee’s presentation noted that before the CAT scanner, “ordinary X-ray examinations of the head had shown the skull bones, but the brain had remained a gray, undifferentiated fog. Now, suddenly, the fog had cleared.”

Hounsfield was knighted in 1981. His name is used to describe the brightness of images that appear on the CAT scanner. The images are measured in Hounsfield units.

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