Dr. William Henry Oldendorf was a world-renowned neurologist who contributed greatly to understanding the brain and pioneered medical imaging techniques widely used today.
Oldendorf was a Virginia scientist who served in the United States Navy as a medical officer. He is best remembered because he played a role in the development of tomography – known as computed tomography – and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Both imaging techniques are derived from Oldendorf’s research on isotope scanning of the brain and are used to obtain noninvasively detailed internal images of the body. These images allow scientists and clinicians to identify and monitor diseases and provide the most accurate treatment to patients.
Through his research in the late 1950s and 1960s, Oldendorf introduced key ideas that laid the foundation for MRI and computed tomography, originally called axial tomography (CAT scan). Both imaging technologies are among the major scientific advances of the 20The tenth century.
A revolution in neurodiagnostics
In 1975, the prestigious Oldendorf participated Lasker Prize with British electrical engineer Godfrey Hounsfield for their development of the CT scan. In the words of the Lasker Foundation, “For Dr. Oldendorf’s concepts and experiments, which foresaw and directly demonstrated the feasibility of computed tomography, and which revolutionized the field of neurodiagnostics, the 1975 Albert Lasker Clinical Research Prize was awarded.”
In addition to medical imaging, Oldendorff continued the research that developed the concept of neuroscience. It has become an international reference on the blood-brain barrier – a highly complex, dynamic, semi-permeable border that protects the brain. The blood-brain barrier protects against toxins or pathogens that can cause brain infections. It also allows essential nutrients to reach the brain.
Born in 1925 in Schenectady, New York, Oldendorf showed a keen interest in medicine in his youth. He graduated from high school at age 15, completed his medical studies at Schenectady Union College in 1945, and received his medical doctorate from Albany Medical College in 1947. He then served in the Navy as a psychiatrist for two years at the US Naval Hospital in Newport, Rhode Island. After leaving the Navy, he completed his residency at the University of Minnesota Hospitals in 1955 and took the position of associate chief of neurology at Wadsworth Hospital, part of West Los Angeles Virginia Medical Center. He also joined the faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine.
The discovery served as the basis for medical imaging techniques
In the years since, Oldendorf has revived the concept of computed tomography – done by a Dutch neurologist Bernard Georges Zedes de Planet It was originally introduced in the 1930s – and it was invented on it. In 1959, he declared that his goal was to “scan the head through a transmitted X-ray beam and reconstruct the plane’s radio-intensity patterns through the head”.
Oldendorf’s landmark paper, published in 1961, focused on radiographic tomography. In 1963, he received a US patent for “his radiant energy device for examining selected regions of internal objects obscured by dense materials”. This prototype, which helped Oldendorf to be known as “Thomas Edison inventing medical devices,” led to the development of the first CT scanners. His discovery also served as the basis for magnetic resonance imaging and other medical imaging technologies not yet developed, such as positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT).
Oldendorff’s CT concept will help improve the diagnosis of neurological disorders, especially among infants and children.
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