Tributes flow in for MRI and PET pioneer John Mallard

2021 03 09 20 41 2909 Mallard John 20210309202317

Medical physicist John Mallard, PhD, a pioneering researcher in MRI and early advocate of PET, has died at the age of 94, according to the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

John Mallard, PhD. Image courtesy of University of Aberdeen.John Mallard, PhD. Image courtesy of University of Aberdeen.

Mallard's team at the University of Aberdeen developed the spin-warp MRI technique and published the first image through the body of a mouse in 1974, wrote radiology historian Dr. Adrian Thomas in 2011. The group also built a whole-body MRI scanner that Aberdeen clinicians used to perform the world's first body scan of a patient, according to the university.

Mallard was also an early champion of PET, predicting in a 1965 lecture that PET would become one of the most powerful tools for studying human diseases, according to the university. He brought Scotland's first PET facility to Aberdeen, leading a national fundraising campaign to pay for a building next to Woodend Hospital that housed a second-hand scanner he had negotiated from researchers in London, the university said in its announcement.

According to Prof. David Lurie from the University of Aberdeen: “In London, he had performed research which indicated that magnetic resonance might be able to diagnose cancer - he published this in the journal Nature in 1964, but it went largely unnoticed. In the 1970s he led the research efforts in Aberdeen that resulted in the invention of the MRI scanning method still in use today.

“In the mid-1970s I worked in John Mallard’s department as a “summer student”. Then, in 1983, he appointed me as a postdoctoral researcher within the MRI team. Soon afterwards, he suggested that I work on free radical imaging, and that research eventually led to my own team’s work on Fast Field-Cycling imaging, which is still in progress today. There is no doubt that I owe my career to John Mallard, and I am extremely grateful to him for that.

“During the years that I worked for him, I found John Mallard to be a strict, very fair manager. When a memo from him appeared - this was long before email - I knew that there would be no question of an extension of any deadline, but equally his suggestions, or “commands”, were always pertinent and frequently paid scientific dividends.”

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