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CT scanner

revealing the mysteries of the living human body London,

Photograph looking into a CT scanner. The couch for the patient to lie on is in the foreground and the entrance to the scanner in the background.
CT brain scanner, 1970-71, designed by Godfrey Hounsfield at EMI. Science Museum/ Science & Society Picture Library

Before the invention of the CT (computerised tomography) scanner, it was impossible to see the structures inside the human brain without injecting harmful liquids or air. 

In the early 1970s Godfrey Hounsfield (1919-2004) at EMI developed the first commercially viable scanner. This instrument pioneered a generation of machines that could produce detailed imagery of the inside of the body to aid diagnosis and treatment. The scanner used computing power to construct a picture from a series of 28,800 measurements made by an X-ray source and detector rotating around the patient. It made cross-sectional images or ‘slices’ of anatomy, like the slices of a loaf of bread (hence ‘tomography’, from the Greek word tomos meaning ‘slice’). 

Hounsfield’s machine enabled doctors to demonstrate the medical usefulness of scanning not just the brain but the body too. By 1977, 1130 machines had been installed worldwide, revolutionising the treatment of a wide range of medical conditions,  from cancer to heart disease. And CT scanning has found other uses, such as imaging the contents of sarcophagi.

Science Museum

EMI Ltd, Hayes, London
Key Individuals
Godfrey Hounsfield,