« Space, Colors, and Flash | Main | Blog Spam Blitz Is Giving Me The Blues »

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2003 was awarded today to Paul C. Lauterbur (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA) and Sir Peter Mansfield (University of Nottingham, UK) for their discoveries concerning "magnetic resonance imaging."

I find it interesting that this prize in physiology and medicine was given to a chemist (Lauterbur) and a physicist (Mansfield) for their pioneering work in the development of MRI. It's especially interesting as work in NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) spectroscopy, the basis of MRI, has already resulted in two Nobel Prizes in Chemistry (to Kurt Wurtrich in 2002 and to Richard R. Ernst in 1991).

In the 1970s, Lauterbur discovered that, by introducing variations in magnetic fields in NMR, one could create a two-dimensional picture. Working independently, Mansfield showed how the signals generated from the atoms in these gradients could be mathematically analyzed. Combining that with his development of techniques to allow very fast imaging to be done made it possible to develop a MRI as a useful imaging technique in the 1980s. According to published statistics, over 60 million MRI procedures are now done each year worldwide.

So, what's the next big thing? What molecular technique that we now are developing will be the next Nobel Prize, or the one in 2020?