1960s medical physics

Nuclear medicine

Nuclear medicine increased in use and sophistication from the early days. In October 1960 Eric Pochin from University College hospital gave the Mackenzie Davidson Memorial Lecture on the use of radioiodine in the examination of the thyroid (Pochin BJR 1960; 33(394): 595-605) which by 1960 had become a large subject. 

Thyroid uptake of radioiodine

Image source: Pochin BJR 1960; 33(394): 595-605



The apparatus improved from the earlier simple static probes. In July 1960 D Hughes and others from the Royal Cancer Hospital described an automatic scintillation scanner that moved across the patient sequentially and produces a paper printout of the region scanned (Hughes, Hodt, Newbery and Sbresni BJR 1960; 33(391): 462-465). Using a scanner that moved the couch with stationary detectors John Mallard, JF Fowler and Maurice Sutton from Hammersmith Hospital demonstrated brain tumours using radioactive arsenic in September 1961 (Mallard, Fowler and Sutton BJR 1960: 34(405); 562-568). There is an elegant colour image of the printouts in the article. By 1965 the technique had improved and R Spencer illustrated his paper on brain scintigraphy with rectilinear scans (Spencer BJR 1965; 38(445): 1-15). The technique was successful and widely used and the number of encephalograms dropped considerably.

Brian occupying lesions

Image source: Spencer BJR 1965; 38(445): 1-15

In June 1967 VR McCready from the Royal Marsden Hospital reviewed nuclear medicine (McCready BJR 1967; 40(474): 401-423).  There had been a dramatic increase in the number and variety of techniques available as this review illustrated. The scans were of low resolution compared to the high resolution radiographic images of the time but the results were obtainable without the invasive radiodiagnostic procedures that were so commonly performed.

Liver scan

Image source: McCready BJR 1967; 40(474): 401-423

In 1962 the Silvanus Thompson memorial Lecture was delivered by WP Grove from the Radiochemical Centre in Amersham (Grove BJR 1962; 35(419): 725-735). The paper illustrated and described the work of the Radiochemical Centre and gave an account of the radiopharmaceuticals that they manufactured – the “Products of The Newer Alchemy.” The subject of radiopharmaceuticals was again returned to in 1969 by K E Scheer from Heidelberg in his Mackenzie Davidson Memorial Lecture (Scheer BJR 1969; 42(501): 641-650) when he discussed the use of short lived radioisotopes in diagnosis. These shorter lived isotopes were of considerable advantage over the older radionuclides which had a comparatively long half-life.

Left femur metastases

Image source: Scheer BJR 1969; 42(501): 641-650

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