Looking Back

The history of radiology is rich with important milestones and discoveries.looking back

Radiologists might know the day that Wilhelm Roentgen discovered the electrical discharge that would eventually become an x-ray. (It's November 8, 1895, in case you forgot.)

But what about the years leading up to clinical sonography? And do you know who pioneered the development of PET? To help celebrate the International Day of Radiology, the Bulletin looks at important dates and milestones in radiology's history.

1970slooking back 1970s

Real-time, gray-scale ultrasonography is developed by medical physicists and physicians.

1972looking back 1972

The first CT scan is performed in England by Godfrey Hounsfield, based on mathematical algorithms by Alan Cormack; Cormack and Hounsfield were later awarded for the Nobel Prize for the development of CT.

1976looking back 1976

David E. Kuhl, MD, creates the "Mark IV" scanner, which uses computerized SPECT imaging, the basis for further development of nuclear imaging and, ultimately, PET imaging.


Andreas Gruntzig, MD, treats the first patient with the balloon catheter method for arterial dilation, which built upon the angioplasty work of Charles Dotter, MD.


James Hanley and Barbara McNeil publish their work using receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves. ROC curve analysis eventually becomes the basis for evaluating the capacity of imaging technologies to detect abnormalities.

Early 1980s

Work by Paul Lauterbur, Peter Mansfield, Raymond Damadian, MD, and many others leads to the development of clinical MRI. Lauterbur and Mansfield share the 2003 Nobel Prize for their discoveries in MRI.


The Radiology Diagnostic Oncology Group is formed. It is the first NCI-funded structure for conducting multi-center clinical trials of imaging and conducts five trials over the ensuing 10 years.


Elias A. Zerhouni, MD, and colleagues publish a method for MRI cardiac imaging.


Blood oxygen level dependent-contrast imaging — the primary functional MRI technique — is described by Seiji Ogawa and applied by John W. Belliveau the following year to visualize human visual cortical activation. As a straightforward method for measuring brain activity with relatively high spatial resolution, it quickly becomes the imaging mainstay of cognitive neuroscience.


looking back 1990Bruce J. Hillman, MD, FACR, publishes research about financial incentives increasing imaging use by non-radiologists. This research, along with a study by Jean Mitchell, MD, and a federal study of self-referral activity in Florida, forms the basis for the Stark Laws banning patient referrals to freestanding facilities in which the referring physician has an ownership interest.


Willi A. Kalendar, MD, and colleagues publish their work developing spiral CT; early applications include the 1993 work of Geoffrey D. Rubin, MD, FACR, with CT angiography of the abdomen.

Early 1990s

Diffusion-weighted MRI in stroke is established by Denis Le Bihan, MD, Michael E. Mosely, PhD, and others as a highly sensitive and specific method for the early detection and characterization of stroke.

Mid 1990s

Gregory Sorensen, MD, and others describe the utility of diffusion-perfusion mismatch on MRI as an indicator of salvageable brain in the presence of acute stroke, for the first time providing a predictor for patients in whom thrombolysis therapy would be of benefit.


NCI establishes the Diagnostic Imaging Program (later renamed the Cancer Imaging Program), intended to enhance the role of imaging in cancer diagnosis.


The Cancer Imaging Program funds ACRIN® and the Brown University statistics group to jointly conduct multi-center clinical trials of imaging technologies. The group conducts more than 40 clinical trials, including large screening trials.


Susumu Mori, PhD, Peter van Zijl, PhD, and others publish papers describing the use of diffusion-tensor MR imaging to visualize the three-dimensional pathways of human brain fiber-tracts, for the first time allowing high-resolution non-invasive visualization of neuronal projections, increasing our understanding of neurocognitive networks.


By act of Congress, the National Institutes of Health add a new institute, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, to facilitate basic research and speed the progression on valuable imaging innovations into practice.


David J. Brenner, PhD, and others report concerns over the potential for increasing CT use to elevate the U.S. population's cancer risk.


looking back 2005The results of ACRIN's Digital Mammographic Imaging Screening Trial are published, detailing the superiority of digital mammography over conventional screen-film mammography for certain groups of women. The information leads to additional payment for digital mammography and spurs the virtually complete replacement of analog mammography systems with digital mammography.


The National Oncologic PET Registry publishes its initial data on the impact of PET on intended treatment for various cancers. Led by Bruce E. Hillner, MD, Constantine A. Gatsonis, PhD, Barry A. Siegel, MD, FACR, and R. Edward Coleman, MD, the results convince CMS to greatly expand insurance coverage for PET in cancer treatment.


The results of ACRIN's National CT Colonography Trial are published, showing equivalence of CT colonography to colonoscopy for large polyps and cancer. The data supports the current claim for insurance coverage for the procedure.


looking back 2011The results of ACRIN's National Lung Screening Trial are published. The trial shows a 20 percent reduction in lung cancer mortality in long-term smokers attributable to annual CT screening and is the primary basis for the 2013 US Preventative Services Task Force proposed decision to recommend screening in specific high-risk populations.


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