Mark-1 // The world's first whole body MRI Scanner

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Mark-1

The world’s first whole-body MRI Scanner


Published by Grampian Hospitals Art Trust (GHAT) Copyright 2016 Cover illustration and centrefold diagram by Katie Guthrie Text courtesy of the authors Photographs courtesy of Eleanor Hutcheon, University of Aberdeen and GHAT ISBN: 9780956775641


Mark-1 Mark-1 is the world’s first clinically-used whole-body MRI Scanner, designed and built in the late 1970s by physicists and technical staff in the Medical Physics Department of the University of Aberdeen. It was used in 1980 for the first-ever diagnostic MRI body scan. More than 1000 patients were scanned on Mark-1 before it was replaced in 1983.



Grampian Hospitals Art Trust Grampian Hospitals Art Trust (GHAT) exists to make our hospitals as visually attractive, interesting and comforting as they can be, for the benefit and wellbeing of all, whether patients, visitors or staff. The opportunity to display the original Mark-1 MRI scanner in The Suttie Arts Space is very much part of this mission and we are delighted that the project has come together with the help of our partners NHS Grampian and the University of Aberdeen. Some may think it is odd to display a piece of technology in an art gallery, but the Mark-1 is more than just technology. It represents a major milestone in scientific achievement, and a huge step forward in the delivery of healthcare worldwide. In addition to the hard science, there is art in the images it produced and there is art in its magnificent Heath Robinsonesque construction. The story of the development of the Mark-1 scanner is told in the accompanying film and paints a very human picture of achievement – brilliant minds, teamwork and humanity all came together to change the world of medicine forever. And all this happened right here in Aberdeen! We at GHAT are very proud to be able to display the Mark-1 MRI machine and we hope that it will thrill and inspire all who see it. Professor Hamish McKenzie Chairman GHAT


The History of Mark-1 Magnetic Resonance Imaging is an amazing diagnostic tool, used by doctors all over the world every day to see inside the body and to diagnose disease. The Mark-1 scanner was designed and built in Aberdeen in the late 1970s by a team of scientists from the Medical Physics Department of the University of Aberdeen. In 1980 Mark-1 became the first MRI scanner in the world to be used to diagnose disease in the body of a patient. MRI works by placing the patient in a strong magnetic field, which causes the magnetic hydrogen atoms in water molecules to line up. The scanner then sends in short bursts of low-energy radio waves, which nudge the hydrogen atoms slightly out of alignment, causing them to produce their own signals, These are collected and the scanner uses them to build up a picture or ‘image’ of the patient’s tissues and organs. The signals are also analysed by the scanner to indicate whether they come from normal or diseased tissue. In the Mark-1 scanner the large black circles are the coils of the magnet and the copper tubes are the aerial which sends in the radiowaves and picks up the signals. The Aberdeen story began in the early 1960s, when a young researcher named John Mallard, based in London, studied the magnetic properties of electrons in tissue samples and made the exciting observation that there were differences between normal tissues and tumours. John Mallard moved to Aberdeen in 1965, to take up the newly-created Chair of Medical Physics. Professor Mallard was still very interested in the possible medical uses of magnetic resonance, and he appointed Jim Hutchison to a Lectureship, to work on this (Jim is now an Emeritus Professor at the University of Aberdeen). In the early 1970s Jim started putting together equipment to measure magnetic resonance signals from hydrogen in tissue samples. Meanwhile, in the United States a scientist called Raymond Damadian had shown that magnetic resonance signals from hydrogen could differentiate between normal and cancerous tissues in small samples.


Professor Jim Hutchison in Mark-1


Another American, Paul Lauterbur, had demonstrated that spatial information could be obtained from the magnetic resonance signals. Mallard and Hutchison decided to put all these ingredients together, and in 1974 they showed an image of a mouse, which was the first ever MRI picture which demonstrated a physiological change! The obvious thing to do next was to scale up the equipment, and John Mallard was determined to go straight from mouse to man. After a struggle, he persuaded the Medical Research Council to fund the construction of a human-scale scanner, which became Mark1. Jim Hutchison designed the magnet, which was built by Oxford Instruments and was brought to Aberdeen, in 1977.

Professor John Mallard Over the next two years the rest of the scanner was designed and constructed, with the help of chief technician Eddie Stevenson from the Medical Physics workshop. This included adding water cooling, to avoid frying patients on the hot magnet. PhD students helped with the design and construction too, including Tom Redpath (now an Emeritus Professor) and Glyn Johnson (now a Professor at the University of East Anglia). A young American postdoctoral scientist named Bill Edelstein was also recruited to the team. He went on to have an exemplary career in the medical imaging industry in the USA and


obtained an honorary DSc degree from Aberdeen University in 2007; Bill sadly passed away in 2014. Initial pictures from the Mark-1 scanner were of reasonable quality, but not quite good enough for diagnosis. That all changed in 1980, when the Aberdeen team started to use a new imaging method that they

Eddie Stevenson had invented, called ‘Spin Warp’. This was a genuine Eureka moment, with Jim Hutchison being the “patient” and Bill Edelstein programming and operating the scanner. Literally overnight Spin Warp provided high quality images of the body which were by far the best in the world at that time. Very soon afterwards the scanner started to be used to image patients, thanks to the efforts of radiologist Dr. Frank Smith who was closely involved with the project; the first-ever patient was a gentleman from Fraserburgh, who was scanned on 28th August 1980. As can be expected, the high-quality images from the Mark-1 scanner generated enormous world-wide interest and confirmed Aberdeen’s place at the vanguard of MRI research. Work expanded to investigate the biological meaning of the images, led by physiologist Dr. Meg Foster in the University’s Medical Physics Department. The Mark-1 scanner was used to scan nearly 1,000 patients, until it was replaced by a more powerful version (Mark-II) in 1983. The scanner was then used for research and teaching within Aberdeen University’s medical school, before being put into storage in 2005. In 2016 it was reconstructed in its new home within The Suttie Arts Space in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.




Aberdeen University is continuing to perform world-class research in MRI. Professor Alison Murray leads a team of radiologists and physicists working to improve diagnosis of cardiac and brain abnormalities as well as cancer. They are also studying subtle changes in the brain associated with aging and linking these changes to socioeconomic and lifestyle factors. Meanwhile, work on new MRI technology is being carried out by my team of medical physicists, especially their new technique called Fast Field-Cycling MRI. By switching the scanner’s magnetic field to different values while the patient is in the scanner, the technique is able to obtain extra diagnostic information that is not available from standard MRI scanners. The team recently obtained a grant of ₏6.6m from the European Union for a collaborative research project, which the Aberdeen scientists are leading and coordinating. The project involves 9 teams in 6 countries and aims to improve FFC-MRI so that it can be used as a diagnostic tool. Aberdeen played a seminal role in the development of MRI scanning, which has saved countless lives around the world. The Mark-1 scanner represents the embodiment of that technology and is a unique historical artefact. Professor David Lurie Chair in Biomedical Physics University of Aberdeen


The Aberdeen MRI team in the early 1980s

Eddie Stevenson rebuilding Mark-1 in The Suttie Arts Space


Scanners, Hammers and Nails Neuroscientist Steven Rose claims that an instrument, e.g. a scientific tool, shapes, and sometimes reduces, the world it depicts and our perception of it. Thus, when we hold a hammer, everything will appear more or less as a nail. Our bodies and our orientation in the world are affected by technology. The intuitive example of the hammer and the nails by Rose can be extended to Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), a complex biomedical technology used to generate images of the morphology and physiology of the body and the brain. Inside the laboratory, MRI is used for research and diagnostic purposes. What would happen if the same instrument were taken out of its original context and employed in an alternative way to its prescribed usage? The technology which remains hidden in today’s MRI scanners (the magnet and gradient coils, the water cooling system, the radiofrequency coil and the Faraday cage) is fully visible in Mark-1, the world’s first whole body MRI scanner. Mark-1 is an occasion to encounter, however, not only a piece of extraordinary technological equipment, but a whole new world. Face-

First scanned image was of a mouse, coloured in by hand


to-face with the MRI scanner and the images it produces, untrained observers cannot perceive MRI scans as evidence of a medical condition. Rather, we (the non-experts) often take these images as uncanny windows to the inside of our bodies and brains. Mark-1 compels us to confront a paradox: the human urge to view images of the body (its interior and its workings) and the failure of MRI images to holistically satisfy that urge. MRI images do not seem to fully represent the nuances of our bodies and brains. This conundrum has been the starting point of a whole range of contemporary projects on identity and portraiture at the crossroad of art and neuroscience. Art-science collaborative projects encourage us to take responsibility for the ethical, social, political choices that affect our bodies and lives, choices that are increasingly intertwined with science and technology. Often the works resulting from such collaborations function like a radar, capable of capturing and transmitting the many signals that emerge from our society. Who has the task of creating, choosing or withstanding the scenarios that are sketched for us citizens in the age of science and technology? Going back to Rose’s claim that if we have a hammer, everything will appear more or less as a nail, we can see that while the artistic use of a scientific instrument is not per se capable of maintaining the complexity of the phenomenon under investigation (i.e. our bodies and brains), nevertheless, artists’ practices might be a possible means to keep the hammer in our hand without reducing the world to a nail. Dr Silvia Casini Lecturer in Film and Visual Culture University of Aberdeen


University of Aberdeen Scientific Instrument Collection Mark-1 is the most recent addition to the University’s scientific instrument collection. With over 2500 instruments, the collection is one of the most important such collections in Europe, reflecting over 250 years of research and teaching in the physical sciences. It is now curated as part of the University’s Museums, which has been accorded the status of a Recognised Collection of National Significance by the Scottish Government. The teaching of Natural Philosophy that developed in the later 18th century is shown by a group of instruments that were used by Professor Patrick Copland who taught the subject in Marischal College from 1775-1822. These include items used to demonstrate Astronomy, Electrostatics & Magnetism, Mechanics, Optics, Pneumatics and Hydraulics, Surveying and Navigation, with some of them made or repaired by himself. The development of Natural Philosophy through the 19th century resulted in further acquisitions, while the 20th century material includes instruments used by Professor G. P. Thomson and Professor R. V. Jones. The latter was one of the last to follow Copland in using demonstration equipment in his teaching. One of the greatest strengths of the collection lies in the 20th century instruments, including well-documented items closely associated with teaching and research, often supported by manuals, student experiment instructions and other archival material. Some themes covered are X-rays and their application in medicine and crystallography, electronic instruments, electrical measurements and the evolution of electrical components, the expanding use of the electromagnetic spectrum, the development of precision instrumentation and computational machines. Mark-1 therefore sits very comfortably as a well-documented highlight of the collection, a testament to the long-standing research strengths of the university as well as the creativity and dedication of the team. Neil Curtis Head of Museums University of Aberdeen


Mark-1 in The Suttie Arts Space Catalogue No ABDNP:203491a


The display of the Mark-1, along with the accompanying documentary film and this publication, were commissioned by Grampian Hospitals Art Trust with the support of Professor John Webster. We are also grateful for support from: Aberdeen Asset Management Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society NHS Grampian The Common Good Fund The Roland Sutton Academic Trust The University of Aberdeen

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