Photo of Allan M. Cormack

Allan M. Cormack

  • National Medal of Science
  • Physical Sciences

For his scientific work including the development of computer assisted tomography; and as a scholar and teacher, especially of undergraduates.

Hospital patients are lucky that Allan Cormack had some free time in the early 1960s. While working as a physics professor at Tufts University, Cormack spent his spare time developing the mathematical theory behind CT scanning.

As a young boy, Cormack dreamed of becoming an astronomer, but chose to pursue electrical engineering, and later physics, because of better career opportunities.

In 1955, Cormack put his physics education to work at a hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, where he learned about x-ray technology. Over the next decade, Cormack worked on his theory whenever time allowed.

He published the results of his findings in 1963 and 1964, but barely received any response from the scientific community. That is, until the1970s, when British scientist Godfrey Newbold Hounasfield used the theory to patent the first CT scan machine.

Through his efforts, combined with those of Hounsafield, Cormack forever changed the world of medicine.

By Rachel Warren