In the news: Peter Mansfield

October 10, 2003

Nottingham University physicist Sir Peter Mansfield confesses that his Nobel prize for medicine, awarded this week, came as a bolt from the blue. "I am obviously very pleased and honoured, but I really did not expect it. Ten years ago, I probably was hoping for a prize, but when it didn't happen I just forgot about it. There were other things to worry about; one has to learn to live without accolades."

Sir Peter, who shares the award and the prize money with Paul Lauterbur of the University of Illinois, has been spending his "retirement" concentrating on developments in magnetic-resonance imaging scanners used in hospitals worldwide. It was his contribution to MRI, by working out how to turn signals from the scanners into three-dimensional images of the body's internal structure, that won him the prize.

But in his afternoons off, his mind has turned to a former favourite hobby: flying aeroplanes and helicopters.

Sir Peter, who celebrated his 70th birthday on Thursday, said he had maintained a down-to-earth view about the successes and breakthroughs in his career, and their wider significance.

His work progressed naturally from his PhD at the University of London in 1962, where he was already interested in magnetic resonance. He took the research forward when he moved to Nottingham.

He said: "When we were developing MRI, we were looking at it from a very close distance and at first not thinking about the possible medical applications. Certainly we were not thinking about Nobel prizes - we were just trying to make the damn thing work."

* Clive Granger won the Nobel prize for economic sciences on Wednesday, making him the third British laureate this year. He was honoured "for methods of analysing economic time series with common trends".

He is based at the University of California, but he studied at the University of Nottingham and joined its mathematics department as a lecturer in statistics in 1956. He went to the US in the early 1960s.

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