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    Former Stony Brook Professor and Nobel Prize Winner Paul Lauterbur Dies at 77

    Paul Lauterbur, who shared the 2003 Nobel Prize for his work in the development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology while a member of the Stony Brook faculty in the 1970s, died in his home in Urbana, Ill. last Tuesday. According to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where Lauterbur taught for the last 22 years after leaving Stony Brook, the cause was kidney disease.

    Dr. Lauterbur was a Professor of Chemistry and Radiology at Stony Brook in the 1970s when he began studying the uses of magnetic resonance spectroscopy, first known as nuclear magnetic resonance, on living organisms. His study eventually found that by placing an organism into a constant magnetic field, and then interposing a second magnetic field of varying strength, could produce sharper images of different tissues in the organism than was previously possible.

    The MRI has become an essential tool in diagnostic medicine that can be used to map changes in brain function as well as providing clear and detailed issues of internal organs and tissues. Despite a controversy developing where Raymond Vahan Damadian had contested that he developed the MRI, Dr. Lauterbur is credited with his insight of using magnetic field gradients to introduce spatial localization, a discovery that allowed rapid acquisition of 2D images. He shares the 2003 Nobel Prize in Medicine with Peter Mansfield from the University of Nottingham. As quoted from a Stony Brook press release, ‘Stony Brook is rightfully known as the birthplace of the MRI’hellip;and Paul Lauterbur was a gifted researcher-one who changed lives and diagnostic medicine forever,’ said President Shirley Strum Kenny.

    Dr. Lauterbur is survived by his wife Joan Dawson, a physiology professor at the University of Illinois; two children from his first marriage, Sharyn Lauterbur-DiGeronimo of Stony Brook and Daniel Lauterbur; and a daughter from his second marriage Elise Lauterbur.

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