1994Advanced TechnologyBiotechnology and Medical Technology
Paul Christian Lauterbur photo

Paul Christian Lauterbur

  • U.S.A. / 1929-2007
  • Chemist
  • Professor and Director, Biomedical Magnetic Resonance Laboratory, University of Illinois

Proposal of the Basic Principles and Outstanding Contribution to the Development of MRI that Confers a Great Benefit on Clinical Medicine

A chemist who was the first to propose the basic principles of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), an imaging diagnosis method widely applied in modern medicine. He confirmed experimentally the feasibility of MRI and laid the foundations for its improvement and development, and also developed many related technologies. Dr. Lauterbur has thus contributed immeasurably to clinical medicine.
*This field then was Field of Biotechnologies (including Medical Technologies).


Brief Biography

Born in Sidney, Ohio, U.S.A.
B.S. in Chemistry, Case Institute of Technology, Cleveland
Ph.D. in Chemistry, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Professor of Chemistry, Radiology, New York University at Stony Brook
Professor, University of Illinois, College of Medicine at Chicago
Professor and Director, Biomedical Magnetic Resonance Laboratory, University of Illinois, College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign

Selected Awards and Honors

Gold Medal of the Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine
The Albert Lasker Clinical Research Award
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) for Distinguished Research in the Biomedical Sciences
The Gold Medal of the Radiological Society of North America
International Society of Magnetic Resonance Award
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Major Works


Image Formation by Induced Local Interactions. Nature.242., 1973.


Zeugmatographic High Resolution Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy. Images of Chemical Inhomogeneity within Microscopic Objects. (with Kramer, D.M., House, Jr., W.V., and Chen, C. -N.) Am. Chem. Soc. 97., 1975.


Theory and Simulation of NMR Spectroscopic Imaging and Field Plotting by Projection Reconstruction Involving an Intrinsic Frequency Dimension. (with Levin, D.N. and Marr, R.B.) J. Magn. Reson. 59., 1984.


Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Imaging of Iron Oxide-Labelled Neural Transplants. (with Hawrylak, N. and others) Experimental Neurology.121., 1993.


Three-Dimensional NMR Microscopy of Rat Spleen and Liver. (with Zhou, X. and others) Mag. Res. in Med. 30., 1993.


Proposal of the Basic Principles and Outstanding Contribution to the Development of MRI that Confers a Great Benefit on Clinical Medicine

In the category of Advanced Technology, which for 1994 focuses on the field of “Biotechnology including Medical Technology,” our laureate is Dr. Paul Christian Lauterbur.

Dr. Lauterbur was the first to propose the basic principle of MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), an image diagnostic technique now widely used in the medical field and to experimentally verify its feasibility through experiments. Thus, he created the foundation for the advancement of MRI and also developed many related technologies.

Dr. Lauterbur conceived the NMR zeugmatography technology to encode positioning information on NMR signals using gradient magnetic fields and the image reconstruction algorithm (an image projection recovery method) which produce sectional data from projection data as made practical by CT scanning. He submitted his idea accompanied by phantom experimental data, in a paper entitled, “Image formation by induced local interactions,” to Nature in 1973, making this the world’s first publication of the innovative idea to create images out of special distribution of NMR signals. Based upon this paper by Dr. Lauterbur, many related methods were proposed, leading to clinical trials in 1982 and subsequent rapid development in MRI technology as we know it today.

MRI is non-invasive, is not affected by bones, and excels in contrasting soft tissues. As it captures information on human body’s soft tissue in its essential three-dimensional format, it allows applications of various measurement methods. This makes it invaluable not only as an early diagnosis of cancer, but imaging of cerebral activities, blood flow and other phenomena that are accompanied by chemical changes.

It is certain that it will play an increasingly important role in the already spectacularly progressing areas of research in brain function analysis.

Dr. Lauterbur has continued to contribute to the development of MRI by publishing papers on such topics as selective excitation method, chemical shift imaging, flow rate measurement, image formation by paramagnetic metallic salts, three-dimensional MRI, and surface coil imaging. More recently, he has been engaged in research to improve NMR microscope and brain research using NMR. Prior to proposing MRI, he pioneered the use of 13C Spectroscopy and his Achievements in this area are also numerous.

Today, MRI continues to advance dramatically, based upon the basic principles laid down by Dr. Lauterbur 20 years ago, and reinforced by the subsequent discovery of many constituent technologies and by the efforts of many technical expert.

Dr. Lauterbur’s contribution to medicine through his work on MRI is immense, and he is the most befitting laureate for the 10th Annual Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology.


Abstract of the Lecture

To think, to do, to believe

“Science is like a boat, which we rebuild plank by plank while staying afloat in it. The philosopher and the scientist are in the same boat.” Neurath

Is life any different, in all its varieties of impulse and understanding? Morals, arts and politics, ethics and social systems, religions and economic systems, share the same plight. Planks are always rotting in warm, quiet waters or failing catastrophically in storms. Failure to keep up with the rebuilding will stunt human lives, bring companies, nations, cultures and civilizations to ruin, and leave sciences and philosophies dull and irrelevant. The problem is to save hard-won understanding despite the constant changes. Mathematical theorems and haiku enrich our humanity over millennia, and questions that were posed long before they were written down still perplex and challenge us.

It is often noted that the rate of scientific and technical development accelerates. Each new technique and level of understanding enriches others, and the rich network expands in scale and complexity at a headlong pace, maintained by links across time and space. Less noted is the parallel growth of human culture in a broader sense because its growth seems to be dominated by the completion of success sive themes and impulses and by confusions during the growth and consolidations of new ones. More and more of those mature cultural complexes are preserved into later eras to influence later works and those with different roots. All is not lost to short human memories and the vagaries of history as a human network reaches farther around the world and backward into time. Architecture and art have long had opportunities to survive, then literature and music, and now we enrich our lives with performances from the past. Some thing is always lost; no human mind can hold the riches of all ages. Wisdom and knowledge and experience, of thoughts and acts and beliefs from the infancy and childhood of all humanity, are increasingly woven into our contemporary souls. The future grows from them, and the seaworthiness of our boat depends on our keeping them in balance and integrated as we build and rebuild each day, each year, each generation.

[Read More]
Full Text(PDF)


Application and Prospectives of Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Saturday, November 12, 1994
Kyoto International Conference Hall
Masahiro Endo (Senior Researcher, National Institute of Radiological Sciences) Tokuko Watanebe (Professor, Tokyo University of the Marine Sciences)


Greetings Toyomi Inamori; Manarging Director, The Inamori Foundation
Greetings Hiroo Imura; Chairman, the Kyoto Prize Committee in Advanced Technology;
President, Kyoto University
Introduction of Laureate Yukio Tateno; Member, the Kyoto Prize Committee in Advanced Technology;
President, the Japanese Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine
Commemorative Lecture Paul Christian Lauterbur; Lectures in Advanced Technology
"Novel Approaches to Macroscopic and Microscopic NMR Imaging and Spectroscopic Imaging"
Introduction of the Lectures by the Chairperson Masahiro Endo
Lecture Kunio Tanaka; Assistant Professor, Asahikawa Medical College
"Historical Review of Bio-Medical NMR Techniques in Japan"
Lecture Hirotake Kamei; Senior Researcher, Electrotechnical Laboratory
"The Role of NMR in the Measurement of Brain Functions"
Introduction of the Lectures by the Chairperson Tokuko Watanabe
Lecture Jerome L. Ackerman; Director, NMR Center, Massachusetts General Hospital
"NMR Microimaging and Spectroscopy of Biomaterials"
Introduction of the Lectures by the Chairperson Masahiro Furuse; President, Nakatsugawa Municipal General Hospital
Lecture Shoji Naruse; Lecturer, Kyoto Prefecrural University of Medicine
"Medical Application of Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy"
Lecture Mutsumasa Takahashi, Professor, Kumamoto University, School of Medicine
"Clinical Application of MR Imaging-Present and Future Prospects-"
Question and Answer
Closing Address Yukiko Tateno