Key accomplishments: radiology
German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen, working with a cathode ray tube in his laboratory, in 1895, discovers "a new kind of ray that can travel great distances, penetrate solid matter, activate fluorescent screens, and expose photographic plates." He receives the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901 for his work in discovering the X-ray.
Austrian physiatrist Karl Theodore Dussik publishes a paper on the medical application of ultrasonics in his investigation of the brain. While important to diagnostic medicine, ultrasonics has few applications to forensics.
Working independently, during the 1940s, Swiss-born physicist Felix Block at Stanford University and American physicist Edward Purcell at Harvard University find that atomic nuclei placed in a magnetic field absorb energy in the range of the spectrum. The nuclei re-emit this energy when they are transferred to their original state. Block and Purcell share the 1952 Nobel Prize in Physics for this work.
When applied to human subjects, the term (NMR) technology becomes known as "magnetic resonance imaging."
American scientists Michael E. Phelps and Edward J. Hoffman develop position emission tomography (PET) scans, a nuclear medicine medical imaging technique which maps the functional processes of the body. The technology is important to diagnostic medicine, but has little application to forensics.
During the 1960s, South African-born physicist Allan Cormack of Tufts University and British engineer Godfrey Hounsfield of EMI Laboratories in England contribute separately to the development of computer-assisted tomography. They share the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
During the 1970s, American chemist Paul Lauterbur and British physicist Peter Mansfield made pioneering contributions which led to the application of magnetic resonance in medical imaging. They share the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
The term "nuclear magnetic resonance" (NMR) was dropped because it was feared that people would associate it with atomic radiation. The technique was renamed "magnetic resonance imaging."