The Department of Radiology & Radiological Sciences

1979 Nobel Laureate
(1919 - 2004) 

The very first ct scanner prototype invented by Hounsfield at EMI. This picture was taken at the UKRC 2005 exhibition in Manchester G-MEX centre.
An original sketch from Hounsfield's notebook. This picture was taken at the UKRC 2005 exhibition, Manchester G-Mex centre.

The Hounsfield scale is a quantitative measure of radiodensity used in evaluating CT scans. The scale is defined in Hounsfield units (symbol HU), running from air at -1000 HU, through water at 0 HU, and up to bone at +1000 HU.

Section Chief, Radiologic Research
Professor, Radiology and Radiological Sciences 


The Godfrey Hounsfield Chair in Radiology is named for Dr. Godfrey Newbold Hounsfield, the English electrical engineer who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1979 for his work in developing the diagnostic technique of computerized axial tomography (CAT), or computerized tomography (CT). In this technique, information obtained from X rays taken by scanners rotating around the patient are combined by a computer to yield a high-resolution image of a slice of the body.
Godfrey N. Hounsfield grew up on a farm outside Nottinghamshire, England, the youngest of five children. As a boy he was a mechanical whiz fascinated by the electrical gadgets and machinery found all over his parents' farm and able to repair the farm's threshing machines and binders. Between the ages of eleven and eighteen, he tinkered with his own electrical recording machines, launched himself off haystacks with his own home-made glider and nearly blew himself up using water-filled tar barrels and acetylene to see how high they could be propelled by water jets.
He studied radio in vocational school, and taught radar mechanics for the Royal Air Force during World War II. After the war he attended another technical school for training to work as an electrical engineer. He was hired at Electrical and Musical Industries (EMI) in 1951, and spent his entire career there. He worked on guided weaponry, radar, and collaborated on the design team for the company's first all-transistor computer.
After studying electronics and radar as a member of the Royal Air Force during World War II, he attended another technical school for training to work as an electrical engineer. He was hired at Electrical and Musical Industries (EMI) in 1951, and spent his entire career there. He worked on guided weaponry, radar, and collaborated on the design team for the company's first all-transistor computer. 
When he found himself without an assignment at the company, his supervisors asked whether he had any interesting ideas to pursue. Hounsfield proposed something that had been brewing in the back of his mind for some time -- computer software to compile x-rays of the same object from multiple angles and arrange the imagery into a complex, essentially three-dimensional representation, allowing doctors to 'see' inside a patient's body in far more detail than a conventional x-ray.
With a grant from the British Department of Health and Social Services, Hounsfield spent the next several years researching, designing, and finally constructing a prototype computerized axial tomography (CAT, or CT) scanner. The first object scanned was a human cadaver's brain, the second was a cow's brain fresh from a butcher shop, and when Hounsfield saw no visible damage, the third object scanned was his own head.
CAT scanning was first used in medical practice in 1971 when Hounsfield extended the capability of a computer so that it could interpret X-ray signals so as to form a two-dimensional image of a complex object such as the human head. Computers soon evolved to the stage needed for processing the signals from the scanners at the same rate they were obtained, and in 1972 the first clinical test of CAT scanning was performed successfully. He pursued the application of axial tomography to medical diagnosis, building a prototype head scanner and by 1975 Hounsfield had constructed the first full-body CAT scanner.
In 1979 Godfrey N. Hounsfield was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology, sharing the honor with an American physicist, Allan M. Cormack, who had independently proposed and published the mathematical basis of CAT scanning several years before Hounsfield, but had found no financial backing to pursue the project. The Nobel honors for Houndsfield and Cormack were hotly debated in scientific circles, as neither man held a degree in either medicine or biology, and Hounsfield had, by traditional standards, no degree at all, having attended only technical colleges.
But CAT scans have become a mainstay of the medical profession, and Houndsfield spent his half of the $190,000 Nobel cash award constructing a laboratory in his living room. He was further honored with knighthood in 1981, his face appeared on a British postal stamp in 1994, and "the Hounsfield scale" remains the standard measurement of radiodensity in CAT scans.  Later in his career he was involved in research into nuclear magnetic resonance imaging.  Sir Godfrey Hounsfield was a shy retiring bachelor, embarrassed by awards and honours, who lived in modest surroundings, loved walking in the mountains, enjoyed music, played the piano by ear, and said he enjoyed "lively way-out discussions."  He was a man without interest in power, position or possessions yet a man whose work contributed massively to the advance of human welfare across the globe.

2005 Inaugural Recipient of the Godfrey Hounsfield Chair in Radiology

Ronald Price, Ph.D., was named the first recipient of the  Godfrey N. Hounsfield Chair in Radiology in August 2005. Price, professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences and director of the Section of Radiological Sciences, said the award will help support his efforts to devise new imaging techniques that one day may more precisely monitor and measure disease progression and therapy.

“First off, I'm very honored to be named to this chair,” Price said. “My hope is that it will allow me to continue working on developing new techniques for cancer imaging, especially ones that allow for a more quantitative approach. And that's crucial because in the past it was hard to monitor disease — its occurrence, its progression, its treatment — without being able to quantify your observations.”
Price and his colleagues are currently developing and testing new imaging compounds, or “probes,” that, when combined with three-dimensional imaging technology, are cancer-specific. In the mouse model stage right now, the ultimate aim is to create imaging tools that will 'see' cancer on the molecular level.
“It's applying quantitative imaging to cancer, primarily in monitoring and observing the course of therapy,” Price said. “Hopefully, one day we'll be able to expand the techniques to guidance of therapy.”
Price joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 1971. He received his B.S., with honors, from Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green and his Ph.D. in Physics from Vanderbilt.
Martin Sandler, M.D., Carol D. and Henry P. Pendergrass Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences was chair of the Department at the time and said the newly established chair reflects Price's many contributions to the department and to the field of diagnostic imaging.
“I can think of no one more deserving of this honor. Dr. Price has been a prominent figure in the development of MRI research at Vanderbilt and was also key in the recruitment of Dr. John Gore to Vanderbilt,” Sandler said.

Radiology’s Price named first Hounsfield Chair (August 2005)

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