Raymond Damadian

Credentials: B.S.

Phone: 1956

Raymond Vahan Damadian was born on March 16, 1936, in Manhattan, and grew up in Forest Hills, Queens. His father, Vahan, an Armenian immigrant from Turkey, was a newspaper photoengraver; his mother, Odette (Yazedjian) Damadian, was an accountant.

Raymond studied violin for several years at Juilliard but diverted to science when he received a Ford Foundation scholarship to attend the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He majored in mathematics there and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1956. He received his medical degree four years later from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx and then became a fellow in biophysics at Harvard, where he became familiar with nuclear magnetic resonance technology.

While working at Downstate and later at Fonar, Dr. Damadian was aware of Dr. Lauterbur, a chemist who was also working on M.R.I. imaging and with whom he shared the National Medal of Technology.

In “Gifted Mind,” Dr. Damadian acknowledged that Dr. Lauterbur “realized that the N.M.R. signal differences in diseased and normal tissues I discovered could be used to construct a picture (image).”

But in 2003, when Dr. Lauterbur and Dr. Mansfield won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their contributions to the science of magnetic resonance imaging, Dr. Damadian was enraged.

He wrote a letter to the American Medical Association, proclaiming that “some unconscionable scientific pilferer is trying to steal my entire life.”

He then spent several hundred thousand dollars on an advertisement that ran in six major international newspapers. Headlined “The Shameful Wrong That Must Be Righted,” the ad claimed that the Nobel Prize committee had unfairly denied him the prize.

At the bottom of the ad he provided a coupon, addressed to the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, to let readers tell the committee that “the TRUTH must have a place,” and that it should add him as the third recipient of the award.

Dr. Hans Ringertz, chairman that year of the Swedish committee that awards the prize, had no comment on Dr. Damadian’s claims but told The Times that there was nothing to prevent Dr. Damadian from being nominated in the future.

A year later, Dr. Damadian received one of the two annual Bower Awards given by the Franklin Institute, a science museum in Philadelphia. He was cited for his business leadership.

“There is no controversy in this,” said Dr. Bradford A. Jameson, a professor of biochemistry at Drexel University who was the chairman of the committee that chose the winners. “If you look at the patents in this field, they’re his.”

Dr. Damadian said then that he was no longer concerned with the Nobel dispute. But he told The Times, “If people want to reconsider history apart from the facts, there’s not much that I can do about that.”

Dr. Damadian continued to innovate. He created open M.R.I. machines, which alleviate the claustrophobia patients can experience during scans when they are moved slowly through a tight tunnel, as well as mobile and stand-up scanners.

In recent years, he was focused on research that included imaging cerebral spinal fluid as it flowed to the brain.

Fonar made and installed about 500 M.R.I. scanners, but today it is focused on managing imaging centers in the United States and servicing existing scanners.

Dr. Damadian is survived by his daughter, Keira Reinmund; his sons, Timothy, Fonar’s president and chief executive since 2016, and Jevan; nine grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and a sister, Claudette Chan. His wife, Donna (Terry) Damadian, died in 2020.

In 1982, as the industry he helped create was in its infancy, Dr. Damadian told Newsday that he had not lost his inventor’s zeal for what lay ahead.

“In 1977, I knew my machine could be a reality,” he said. “But until then, it was like building a model airplane. Now I know it’s for real.”

Link:  Raymond Damadian, Creator of the First M.R.I. Scanner, Dies at 86 – The New York Times (nytimes.com)