Beckman Insitute exhibit displays first-ever MRI scanners invented

The first two human magnetic resonance imaging scanners invented by late faculty member Paul Lauterbur on September 2, 1971, are now on display in the Illinois MRI Exhibit at the Beckman Institute. 

The Illinois MRI Exhibit at the Beckman Institute highlights technology dating back to the 20th century. 

Inaaz Mirza, a University of Illinois student mentioned her interest in the exhibit.

“I think it’s really cool that the very first MRI scans are located at our school. It’s a precious artifact that paved the way for modern medicine,” said Mirza. 

The physical exhibit features the first two human MRI scanners, artifacts, and information shared on interactive screens. The exhibit covers the past, present, and future of MRI research at Illinois.

Lauterbur was the first researcher to produce an image and was among the first scientists to use nuclear magnetic resonance in Chemistry. His research led to the development of the magnetic resonance imaging scanner, which has had a revolutionary impact on the medical profession.

MRI scanners are used to perform tests on organs of the chest, abdomen, and other areas to help diagnose or monitor diseases of the body, according to 

In a study conducted by the National Library of Medicine, MRI scanning was 90.5% sensitive, 89.5% specific, and 90.1% accurate, making it a vital asset for disease diagnosis. 

After 22 years at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Lauterbur joined the U. of I. faculty in 1985, where he taught Chemistry and later brought his two MRI scans to be presented on the U. of I. campus. 

Meg Dickinson, director of Communications at Beckman Institute, mentioned the exhibit stands as the foundational research that started on this campus in the mid-20th century and celebrates the MRI as a life-changing invention.

Lauterbur’s original two human MRI scanners, which his lab had painted red, include all the assets of a modern MRI used today. Both are on display in the exhibit.

The exhibit is open Mondays to Fridays from 7:30 am to 6:30 pm at the Beckman Institute on campus.