On 19 May 2011, Chemistry Professor Clare Grey was elected to The Royal Society, a Fellowship of the world’s most eminent scientists and the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence. The Royal Society aims to expand the frontiers of knowledge by championing the development and use of science, mathematics, engineering and medicine for the benefit of humanity and the good of the planet.
Dr. Grey holds a joint appointment between Stony Brook and the University of Cambridge where she is the Geoffrey Moorhouse Gibson Professor of Chemistry.
Clare is a recognized world leader in the use of solid state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to study structure and function in inorganic materials. She has pioneered a wide range of novel NMR approaches, and combined these methods with many other structural characterization tools to understand the detailed mechanism of existing materials and thereby to direct the design of new ones. She has pioneered ground-breaking in situ NMR studies of batteries and fuel cells which have provided a greatly enhanced understanding of the processes that occur when a battery charges and discharges, and when a fuel cell operates. This work has a direct and important impact on the optimization and development of systems for energy storage and conversion.
The Society’s Fellows and Foreign Members are elected for life on the basis of scientific excellence. Fellows of the Royal Society have included Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Ernest Rutherford, Albert Einstein, Dorothy Hodgkin, Francis Crick, James Watson and Stephen Hawking. Today there are approximately 1,500 Fellows and Foreign Members, including more than 70 Nobel Laureates.
Fellows are elected through a peer review process that culminates in a vote by existing Fellows. Each year 44 Fellows, 8 Foreign Members and up to 1 Honorary Fellow are elected from a group of over 700 candidates who are proposed by the existing Fellowship.
As the United Kingdom’s independent national academy, the Society represents the British scientific community within Britain and in relations with individuals and groups of scientists throughout the world.
Forty years ago, during his second bite into a hamburger, Paul Lauterbur experienced a “Eureka” moment: He figured out the scientific basis of what was to become the MRI.
On Friday, the American Chemical Society honored Lauterbur posthumously by designating Stony Brook University’s chemistry department a historic landmark.
It’s the department where he taught for more than 20 years and refined his pioneering work on magnetic resonance imaging.
Stony Brook officials and Nancy Jackson, president of the chemical society, were on hand for the presentation of a plaque marking Lauterbur’s accomplishment.
He was wooed away from the school in 1985 by the University of Illinois and won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 2003 for his groundbreaking ideas that produced truly useful images. Lauterbur died four years later at the age of 78.
“He developed the mathematical theory for magnetic resonance imaging and how we can detect information from the human body,” said Debiao Li, vice president of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine.
Lauterbur’s widow, Joan Dawson, an emeritus professor at the University of Illinois’ Urbana-Champaign campus, said her husband’s discovery came suddenly, while dining at a Long Island Big Boy restaurant with a colleague.
He jotted down his thoughts on a napkin but quickly ran out of space.
“Paul ran out to a drugstore and bought a spiral notebook, and wrote down his ideas,” Dawson recalled.
In 2003, Lauterbur told Newsday on the day he won the Nobel Prize, “I knew [MRI] would be a useful tool from the very first ideas, but not how useful.”
His development of MRI grew out of work involving nuclear resonance imaging.
MRI allows physicians to peer into the body without invasive surgery. It has proved useful for scanning the brain and other organs, as well as the spinal cord and joints. The images are comparable to those generated by three-dimensional CT scans but are produced without potentially harmful ionizing radiation.
MRI uses powerful magnets and radio waves to take pictures of the body. Dawson said she’s touched that Lauterbur is still remembered at Stony Brook.
“My husband has been awarded many honors over the years,” she said. “But this would be very special to him. And he would be proud to know this department still remembers him.”