Child Inventor Grows Up to Save Lives

From the Farm to the Hospital: The CT Scanner Story

A sneak peak into Godfrey Hounsfield’s childhood would reveal a boy diving from the top of a hay mound with his home-made glider or blasting projectiles into the air using waterjet propulsion. Godfrey loved growing up on the farm, and most of all he loved the machines.


Before there was such a thing as an “engineering department” at universities, Godfrey studied electrical engineering theory and practical applications at the respected Faraday House in London. A volunteer in the Royal Air Force, Godfrey Hounsfield carried his childhood interests into adulthood, becoming skilled in electronics, radar and guided weapons systems.

Helping to design a breakthrough in computers in 1958 with the EMIDEC 1100, Hounsfield developed the skills and knowledge which would contribute to his life-saving invention.

One day while casually traveling the countryside, an idea came to Godfrey: “Why couldn’t multiple X-rays taken at various angles be combined to reveal the contents of a sealed box?” Getting to work on his idea, Hounsfield built the first CT scanner and tested it on both a human brain and a cow brain before testing it on himself.

The first patient brain scan was performed on October 1, 1971 on a 41-year-old lady. This scan revealed that she had a cystic tumor in the frontal lobe of her brain, and the lady was operated on.

- Is this what a CT Scanner would look like in the steam age? -

– Is this what a CT Scanner would look like in the steam age? –

Many patients were to follow, and computed tomography soon became a standard method in radiological diagnostics. Hounsfield was awarded the Nobel Prize and was knighted as Sir Godfrey Hounsfield.

The steampunk variation of Godfrey’s original invention and first patient scan was submitted by The Brick Idea’s first VIP Guest, known as “Voxel123” on Flickr. Enjoy this creative build!


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