The History of Nuclear Medicine

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The chapter provides a historic overview of the research in physics and chemistry for the development of radionuclides, radiopharmaceuticals, and instrumentation which have had a major impact for the today’s status of nuclear medicine. During the first half of the 20th century in particular, a number of researchers with relevance to the development of nuclear medicine have been awarded the Nobel Prize. After Röntgen’s and Becquerel's fantastic discoveries, 1885 and 1886 respectively, the first three decades were characterized by a systematic research that resulted in a growing use of ionizing radiation in medicine. The inventions of the cyclotron in the 1930s and the fission reactor in the early 1940s resulted into production of a variety of radionuclides. The development of the 99Mo-99Tcm-generator 1957, initiated a successive expansion of developed radiopharmaceuticals. The 1950s was the decade when the fundamental imaging devices, the scintigraph and the Anger camera, was invented and became outstanding workhorses during years. The decades to come, 1970-1990, led to further instrumental development with tomographic techniques, SPECT and PET, as well as a growing interest in radioimmunology and internal dosimetry. The last decade’s research has led into an improved imaging by multi-modality systems, SPECT/CT and PET/CT, sophisticated molecular imaging, and individual patient dosimetry. Nuclear medicine is cutting-edge and will remain a significant field in diagnostic imaging and radiation therapy. The medical physicist has an important role to play for further development – to be the expert link between radiation physics, imaging technology and medical applications.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging for Physicists
Subtitle of host publicationInstrumentation and Imaging Procedures
EditorsMichael Ljungberg
PublisherCRC Press
Edition1st Edition
ISBN (Electronic)9780429489556
ISBN (Print)9781138593268, 9781032058689
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Jan 25

Publication series

NameSeries in Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering
PublisherCRC-Press Taylor & Francis Group

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • History of Technology
  • Other Physics Topics


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