October 8, 2014, by Kathryn Summerwill

MRI Scanning and George Green

Sir Peter Mansfield with a MRI scanner

Sir Peter Mansfield with a MRI scanner (image: The University of Nottingham)

One of the University of Nottingham’s biggest success stories in recent years has been its association with the development of Magnetic Resonance techniques. Sir Peter Mansfield pioneered work on MRI in Nottingham in the 1970s, and invented the current method of producing an image of a slice through the inside of a human body using magnetic fields and radio waves. He shared the Nobel Prize for his part in the development of MRI in 2003. The University’s Sir Peter Mansfield Magnetic Resonance Centre, part of the School of Physics and Astronomy, continues to research MRI today.

What, you might ask, does this have to do with George Green, a theoretical mathematician from Nottingham who died in 1841?

The answer will be discussed in detail by Emeritus Professor Roger Bowley of the School of Physics and Astronomy, at a lunchtime talk to coincide with our exhibition, George Green: Nottingham’s Magnificent Mathematician.

Figure 23 from the UK Patent GB 2 180 943 B ‘Magnetic Field Screens’, published 4 July 1990

Figure 23 from the UK Patent GB 2 180 943 B ‘Magnetic Field Screens’, published 4 July 1990. From Acc 2490, by permission of Roger Bowley

Bowley was a member of staff in the School of Physics in 1985, and a collaborator on Peter Mansfield’s gradient coil shielding project, which aimed to improve the clarity of images produced by a MRI scanner. Dr Robert Turner, on Bowley’s suggestion, used a mathematical tool called a Green’s function in his calculations. Green’s functions are named after George Green, and are derived from his seminal 1828 work An Essay on the Application of Mathematical Analysis to the Theories of Electricity and Magnetism. Electricity and magnetism are of course the basis of MRI technology, although Green himself never knew that his work would be applied in this way.

Turner’s calculations went on to be used in the patent application for MRI scanning technology using magnetic field screens (UK Patent GB 2180943 B, ‘Magnetic Field Screens’, filed 16 Sep 1986, application published 8 Apr 1987, patent published 4 Jul 1990. Inventors: Peter Mansfield, Robert Turner, Barry Leonard Walter Chapman, Roger Malcolm Bowley). This patent was picked up by all the major manufacturers of scanning machinery, and is the basis of current MRI technology.

The lunchtime talk takes place in the Djanogly Theatre, Nottingham Lakeside Arts, on Tuesday 21st October at 1pm. To reserve a place please telephone the Box Office on 0115 846 7777.

The exhibition runs in the Weston Gallery until Sunday 4th January 2015.




Posted in Exhibitions