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The "Indomitable" MRI

Raymond Damadian's medical imaging machine set off a revolution — but not without controversy

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Despite the technology's success, detractors denounce the first Indomitable image as "meaningless," given its crudeness and vulnerability to bias. Moreover, they view Damadian's so-called breakthrough as a technical dead end: even his own company, Fonar, abandoned the approach and adopted Lauterbur's in the early 1980s. But Damadian considers Fonar's courtroom victory in 1997 over General Electric, which forced the industry giant to award him $128 million for patent infringements, as proof of the priority of his concept.

Raymond Damadian now is racing other experimenters to create a giant MRI machine that will allow surgeons to view patients' interior anatomies while they operate. Historians of science, meanwhile, will review the history of MRI technology to distinguish braggadocio from brilliance, as tough a task as measuring spin on electrons. If claims hold up, someone from the field may again make headlines — as a Nobel Prize winner.

By Julie Wakefield


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