An Inspiration to Us All
The brand new book Gifted Mind has it all: inspiring message, an exciting story with diverse characters, conflict resolution and a happy ending. This is a book that the reader will be reluctant to put down. Best of all, however, this is a true account of how God worked in the life of the amazing inventor of the magnetic resonance imaging machine (MRI). This machine has only been available since the 1980s, yet it has impacted for good the lives of millions of people.
The book describes the family background and youth of Raymond Damadian, a New Yorker of recent Armenian/French descent. Through all his life experiences, Dr. Damadian considers that God was in control of his life, even during the time when Dr. Damadian considered himself an atheist. Thus he declares: “Looking back, it is clear that the hand of God was on me for my good. His divine providence was guiding me on a path whose destination was yet unknown to me at the time.” (p. 29) And “I have always felt as if God’s guiding hand was on me, even through a season of my life where I relegated Him to the back seat of my life. Even then, He was still sovereignly directing my path.” (p. 163)
While the core of the book deals with the exciting story of the invention of the MRI, the message is that all Christians have been placed in this world to make a difference in their society. Not only are believers to promote the truth of the gospel, but they are also to work for practical benefits for their fellow man. The invention of the MRI is an example of this. Thus he declares: “Inventions like the MRI simply liberate and unveil His [God’s] truth for the benefit of mankind, just as it was His revelation of electricity to Faraday, wireless transmission to Armstrong, electric lighting to Edison, and aerial transport to the Wright brothers.” (p. 11) But is not just a few people who are to strive for the truth, all of us are to do so, not just in our homes and church communities, but in all society including academic, legal, political and scientific communities. (p. 20)
It is interesting to read how God brought Dr. Damadian to a “eureka moment”, where he suddenly perceived the potential for a technology that was at the time being used in chemistry (on a very small scale), to be developed on a very large scale for medical diagnostics of living people.
Trained as a medical doctor with research interests in biophysics, Dr. Damadian sought to research electricity in the human body: “Early in my research I became fascinated by the phenomenon that every human being is a walking electrical plant generating his (her) own electricity.” (p. 44) This electricity is what powers the body’s senses and thinking, as well as motion and muscle contraction (as in the heart). Other scientists had suggested that it was the highly unequal concentration of potassium ions (atoms) inside the cell, with many fewer outside the cell, that allowed for the voltage. But sodium was another possible candidate for providing the voltage. Why was potassium involved, and not sodium (with concentrations inside and outside the cell the exact opposite of that of potassium). There was a theory to explain this, but nobody had been able to establish if it was valid or not.
In pursuit of some answers, Dr. Damadian and a colleague tried a highly unusual technique, involving a test tube of bacteria placed inside a super strong magnetic field. The resulting signal generated from inside the bacteria, revealed the quantity and location of potassium inside the cells. This was a most remarkable moment, as Dr. Damadian remarked. “Without any invasion whatsoever of the sample itself, [we] measured the chemistry of a compound within the intact interior of a living cell entirely non-invasively.” (p. 53)
At this point Dr. Damadian had a sudden realization: “Do you realize that if we could do such a thing on a human body with antennae external to the body we would be able to track down the live chemistry of any tissue within the body non-invasively?” (p. 53) This set Dr. Damadian on an entirely different research path, this time into medical technology. And the rest is history! However Dr. Damadian kept encountering resistance to his idea. At every step, there was resistance and conflict from some people, and support and assistance from others. The scientific and medical research establishments were, for the most part, most unhelpful. Dr. Damadian’s applications for funds were turned down time and time again. If it were not for some really miraculous events and support, the MRI would never have become a reality.
The book thus describes the scientific basis for the MRI machine and how the Damadian team worked to overcome many obstacles. Even after his invention became a reality, Dr. Damadian had to fight in court over many years, right up to the Supreme Court, to defend his patent against big business which sought to exploit his invention (without paying royalties). The significance of MRI is that it provides images of soft tissue in the body, even distinguishing each normal tissue type from all others, and diseased tissue from healthy tissue. This is in contrast to X-rays, which provide images of bone, but only poorly reveal soft tissues. In addition, X-rays can damage living cells.
There are many interesting MRI images provided in the book, and a discussion of some of the ways that MRI technology can be used to promote patient care. For those looking for scientific insights, the book provides detailed discussion of the physical processes underlying the MRI technology. For those seeking to learn about the events, the account is lively and interesting. Dr. Damadian also makes it abundantly clear that a literal six day creation (as described in Genesis) provides the basis of his understanding of science and the Gospel. Altogether this book has something for everybody! Highly recommended.
Jeff Kinley. 2015. Gifted Mind: the Dr. Raymond Damadian Story/ Inventor of the MRI. Master Books. pp. 240.
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