Dr. Raymond Damadian

Dr. Raymond Damadian Dies


NEW YORK — Raymond Vahan Damadian, MD, died on August 3. He was 86.

Dr. Damadian was a member of the Armenian American Healthcare Providers Organization (AAHPO), physician, medical practitioner, and inventor of the first MR (magnetic resonance) scanning machine, a method now well known as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Dr. Damadian was a distinguished speaker at the Armenian Medical World Congress in New York in 2009, hosted by AAHPO.

Damadian was born on March 16, 1936 in New York City to Vahan and Odette (Yazedjian) Damadian. He earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1956, and an M.D. degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City in 1960.

A multi-talented individual, he studied the violin at Juilliard for 8 years, and played in Junior Davis Cup tennis competitions. Dr. Damadian met his future wife, Donna Terry, while he had a job as a tennis coach. The two married a year after he finished medical school, and they had three children.

Raymond said that he first became interested in detecting cancer when, as a boy of 10, he saw his maternal grandmother, with whom he was very close, die painfully of breast cancer.

Damadian’s research into sodium and potassium in living cells led him to his first experiments with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) which caused him to first propose the MR body scanner in 1969. Damadian discovered that tumors and normal tissue can be distinguished in vivo by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) because of their prolonged relaxation times. Dr. Damadian was the first to perform a full-body scan of a human being in 1977 to diagnose cancer. He invented an apparatus and method to use NMR safely and accurately to scan the human body.

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Dr. Damadian was widely recognized for his groundbreaking inventions. In 2001, the Lemelson-MIT Prize Program bestowed its $100,000 Lifetime Achievement Award on Dr. Damadian as “the man who invented the MRI scanner.” He went on to collaborate with Wilson Greatbach, one early developer of the implantable pacemaker, to develop an MRI-compatible pacemaker. The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia gave its recognition of Dr. Damadian’s work on MRI with the Bower Award in Business Leadership. He was also named Knights of Vartan 2003 “Man of the Year”. Dr. Damadian received a National Medal of Technology in 1988 and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1989.

In 2003, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Paul Lauterbur and Sir Peter Mansfield for their discoveries related to MRI. Although Nobel rules allow for the award to be shared by up to three recipients, Damadian was not given the prize. The controversy over who played what part in the development of the MRI had gone on for years prior to the Nobel announcement, and many in the scientific community felt that the Nobel had not been awarded for the MRI for so long due to debate over Damadian’s role in its development.

Damadian said that credit should go to “me, and then Lauterbur,” and Lauterbur felt that only he should get credit. In 1997 the National Academy of Sciences commissioned a timeline of MRI milestones, and four of the 12 in an initial draft were attributed to Damadian. At the final publication in 2001, longer than any other publication in the series had ever been taken, none of the milestones was attributed to Damadian. The text said that Damadian’s methods had “not proved clinically reliable in detecting or diagnosing cancer.”[22] After Damadian’s lawyers sent the NAS a threatening letter, the text on the NAS website was revised, but not to Damadian’s satisfaction. Damadian said in 2002, “If I had not been born, would MRI have existed? I don’t think so. If Lauterbur had not been born? I would have gotten there. Eventually.”

Philosopher Michael Ruse writing for the Metanexus Institute suggested that Damadian might have been denied a Nobel prize because of his creationist views, saying:

I cringe at the thought that Raymond Damadian was refused his just honor because of his religious beliefs. Having silly ideas in one field is no good reason to deny merit for great ideas in another field. Apart from the fact that this time the Creation Scientists will think that there is good reason to think that they are the objects of unfair treatment at the hands of the scientific community.

Damadian himself said, “Before this happened, nobody ever said to me ‘They will not give you the Nobel Prize for Medicine because you are a creation scientist’. If people were actively campaigning against me because of that, I never knew it.”

Topics: Obituary

Dr. Damadian is survived by his children, Timothy (Helen), Jevan (Victoria) and Keira (Markus) Reinmund. He was the grandfather to Caitlin (Mike), Brianna (Matt), Ben, Serena, Jesiah, Eliza, Kaia, Viki and Jonathan, and loving great grandfather of Jack, Elizabeth and Emma.

Funeral services were on August 8, at Dix Hills Evangelical Free Church in Dix Hills, NY.


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