Dr. Raymond Damadian, the inventor who built the first ever magnetic resonance imaging scanner (MRI), died earlier this month at his home on New York’s Long Island. He was 86.
The idea for Dr. Damadian’s breakthrough invention reportedly came to him back in the 1960s, and he published his first paper on the development in 1971. His theory that it was possible to scan the human body without radiation was initially scoffed at – but he persisted, obtained a patent for the technology in 1972, and then produced the first scan in 1977.
Over 30 million MRIs are performed each year in the United States, making it one of the most effective tools in a doctor’s arsenal for diagnosing and treating a wide range of illnesses and medical conditions. It would be impossible to calculate how many lives the machine has saved and how much suffering the technology has helped lessen or alleviated altogether.
No matter the industry, pioneers and innovators are often ridiculed, criticized and sometimes even dismissed as cranks. Dr. Damadian is no exception.
Why is it that you’ve likely never heard of him – and why was he passed over for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine?
Dr. Damadian was a strong believer in Jesus Christ. His life verse was John 14:14, and he loved to quote the words of Jesus to family, friends and colleagues: “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
But unlike some who take that verse out of context by likening it to a genie in a bottle, he saw it as a reminder and command to check his motivations and commit all of his experiments and studies to the Lord’s will and ways.
“Just do the experiment,” he would tell his fellow scientists – and trust in God with the outcome.
In both his personal and professional life, the pioneering scientist had ample opportunity to put those beliefs to work.
When the Nobel Committee finally acknowledged the invention and impact of the MRI machine in 2003, but gave the coveted prize to two other scientists whose contributions helped move the technology forward, the doctor was nearly beside himself. He felt ignored, cheated and dismissed. When asked why he was passed over, the committee said they only comment on winners.
As it would turn out, many have suggested Dr. Damadian was passed over because he was a vocal and committed creationist, believing in a literal six-day creation. According to his biographer, the famed inventor believed evolution is a “tragic hoax foisted upon mankind” and that anyone who embraces it rejects the idea that we’re “creations of a gracious God.” He once participated in a highly successful, convincing and spirited debate about the subject with anti-creationist and media personality Dr. Bill Nye and Dr. Ken Ham, the CEO and founder of “Answers in Genesis.”
Raymond Damadian took the snub from the Nobel Committee hard, but eventually assumed an extremely gracious posture about it all.
“The [invention of the] MRI was the Lord’s doing, but He gave it to me because I was willing to give the glory of the discovery to the glory of God and Jesus Christ,” he said. “I was honored to be the inventor.”
Dr. Raymond Damadian’s long and consequential life should serve as a reminder to all of us that though the world may mock or even ignore us for holding true to the tenets of our Christian faith, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a force that cannot be stopped. Ignore the critics and the antagonists. Lean into your calling. Ask Him to help you. The Lord will use us – and in significant and even wondrous ways – if we remain steadfast and obedient to His plan for our lives.