Raymond Damadian, Inventor of the MRI
by Jerry Bergman, Ph.D. *
Dr. Raymond Damadian is the “father of the MRI” (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). MRI is widely recognized as “one of the great medical breakthroughs of the 20th century” and has saved and enhanced countless lives.1
While studying violin at the world-famous Juilliard School of Music, Damadian competed with nearly 100,000 applicants and won a Ford Foundation Scholarship. He was only 15. This enabled him to complete a mathematics degree at the University of Wisconsin. He then earned his medical degree at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and later did graduate work in biophysics at Harvard.
Damadian then became a professor at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, where he taught until he founded a company to manufacture MRI scanners.2 He also published widely in peer-reviewed scientific literature, including a highly cited cover article on MRI in the leading journal Science.3
MRI, the premier medical diagnostic imaging method in use today, is a 10+ billion-dollar-per-year industry. MRIs are able to detect diseased tissue or injury more accurately, safely, and efficiently than any other medical imaging technique.4 Over a billion MRI scans have been completed since its invention, with over 60 million additional scans each year.5
Damadian first got the idea while using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to scan salt-loving bacteria called halophiles that contain 20 times greater potassium levels than most bacteria.6 The results were so promising that Damadian realized the technique could be used to diagnose cancer and other diseases in humans.7 From that time forward, he spent most of his career developing the MRI medical body scanner to achieve this goal.
In 1970, he documented a major difference in MR signals between cancer and normal tissue, as well as major differences among normal tissue types—a critical discovery that made MRI scans possible. As early as 1973, articles appeared in popular magazines about his achievements.8
His wife, Donna, wrote that Damadian had “great faith in the Lord and that, with His help, he’d be able to” achieve his goal of developing MRI technology to help diagnose disease. In his struggle to develop MRI, she added that the “Lord always seemed to look after him.”9 After much work, he achieved his goal of developing a functional MRI and soon after began manufacturing these extraordinary machines.
Recognition of Damadian’s Achievements
In 1988, President Ronald Reagan awarded the National Medal of Technology jointly to Dr. Damadian and Dr. Paul Lauterbur for their contributions to the development of MRI. In 1989, Damadian was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, joining other distinguished men, including Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Samuel F. B. Morse, and the Wright Brothers. The first MRI scanner ever built—Damadian’s own machine called “Indomitable”—was placed in the Smithsonian Institution the same year. In March 2004, he was awarded The Franklin Institute Medal “for his development and commercialization of magnetic resonance imaging...which has transformed the diagnosis and treatment of disease.”10
His Christian and Creationist Involvement
Damadian became a born-again Christian in 1957 at a Billy Graham crusade in Madison Square Garden.11 Extensive reading and study on science and theology put his Christian faith on firm footing, especially on the creation-evolution question. He also became keenly aware of the fallacy of Darwinism. Since then, Damadian has been very active in supporting creationism.12 He writes that he now understands
what the Apostle Paul calls the renewed mind. Out of a mind renewed by Jesus came the obvious. How could a scientist achieve his goal of discovering the absolute truths that govern the natural world without the blessing of the Author of those truths? For me now the true thrill of science is the search to understand a small corner of God’s grand design, and to lay the glory for such discoveries at the Grand Designer’s feet.13
A problem Damadian soon encountered was the “aggressively secular environment of academics and science,” noting that he faced the fact that a scientist looks
at the experiments he is performing under conditions he himself is manipulating, and jumps to the conclusion that he thinks he understands how creation took place, and God wasn’t necessary. This becomes the root of atheism, and it got hold of me.14
Dr. Damadian added that he read the Bible from cover to cover, observing that
for the scientific mind, the Bible is wonderful if you read it from start to finish. It fits together with an astonishing consistency, which was the opposite of my secular perception. My early impressions were that it was rife with contradictions.14
This impression was demolished by his study of the issue of biblical credibility on the creation issue. One problem Damadian was concerned with was
some theologians and preachers qualified certain statements in the Bible, making their accommodations with the scientific world, saying…most of the claims for creation and for miracles have alternate explanations. If the Bible has to be qualified at every verse, then it isn’t long before you drift away from its authority.14
Damadian’s deeply held religious beliefs, specifically his conclusions on origins, are detailed in his new book, Gifted Mind.15 As an active creationist, he has served on the boards of several creation organizations, including the Institute for Creation Research and the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum.
Dr. Damadian is one of many scientists who have realized science does not lead to Darwinism; rather, science leads us to the feet of the Grand Designer.15,16
Acknowledgments: I would like to thank Raymond Damadian, M.D., Michael Dennis, Ph.D., Peter Lassen, M.Sc.E., and Dr. Damadian’s assistant, Ellen Yeske.
- Evans, H. 2004. They Made America: From the Steam Engine to the Search Engine. New York: Doubleday, 442.
- Weiss, R. 2003. Prize Fight. Smithsonian. 34 (9): 35-38.
- Kjelle, M. M. 2003. Raymond Damadian and the Development of MRI (Unlocking the Secrets of Science). Bear, DE: Mitchell Lane, 41.
- Dwyer, J. The Quirky Genius Who Is Changing Our World. Parade Magazine, October 10, 1993, 8-10.
- Meyers, M. A. 2012. Prize Fight: The Race and the Rivalry to Be the First in Science. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 125.
- Damadian, R. 1994. The Story of MRI. The Saturday Evening Post. 266 (3): 55.
- Damadian, R. 1971. Tumor Detection by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. Science. 171 (3976): 1151-1153.
- Edelson, E. 1973. How Scientists Are Detecting Cancer with Supermagnets. Popular Science. 202 (3): 99.
- Kleinfield, S. 1985. A Machine Called Indomitable: The Remarkable Story of a Scientist’s Inspiration, Invention, and Medical Breakthrough. New York: Times Books. 149.
- Raymond V. Damadian. Fact sheet of The Franklin Institute. Posted on www.fi.edu., April 2004
- Chuvala, B. 1996. Images of the Body. Reflections of the Soul. Physician. 8 (3): 4-7.
- Hiebert, R. Darwin Wins Friends in Rome. British Columbia Report, November 11, 1996, 30-31.
- Damadian, R. Discovering the MRI Scanner. Guideposts, January 1999, 23.
- Chuvala, Images of the Body, 7.
- Damadian, R. and L. Leech. 2015. Gifted Mind: The Dr. Raymond Damadian Story, Inventor of the MRI. Green Forest, AR: Master Books.
- Beyak, T. Is It Possible to be a World-Class Scientist and a Creationist? Abbotsford & Mission News, September 21, 1996.
* Dr. Bergman is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Toledo Medical School in Ohio.
Cite this article: Jerry Bergman, Ph.D. 2015. Raymond Damadian, Inventor of the MRI. Acts & Facts. 44 (5).