Sir Peter Mansfield was born on 9 October 1933 and grew up in London. He left school at fifteen to become a printer’s assistant before obtaining a government post at the Rocket Propulsion Department in Westcott, Buckinghamshire. After national service, he studied at night school for the qualifications that gave him entrance, in 1956, to Queen Mary College, University of London, where he studied physics.
Sir Peter’s early work was in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), then being used to study the chemical structure of substances. He joined the Department of Physics, University of Nottingham, in 1964, and by the early 1970s was working on the application of NMR to imaging that led directly to Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). He and his team showed how the radio signals from MRI could be mathematically analysed, making possible their interpretation into useful images. A medical diagnostic application was further progressed by the development of a rapid imaging technique called echo-planar imaging. The team presented their first human image (of Mansfield’s abomen) in 1978. For his work in the development of MRI, Mansfield was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2003, which he shared with Paul Lauterbur of the United States.
Amongst Sir Peter’s many awards and honours are the Garmisch-Partenkirchen Prize for MRI (1995), the Gold Medal of the journal Clinical MRI (1995) and a knighthood in the New Year’s Honours (1993). He continues to work on the safety and acoustic screening of MRI.