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William Edelstein
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William Edelstein

Bill Edelstein died early on February 10, 2014. While sudden, Bill had been dealing with cancer for the past two years. Even so, he had been working up to the prior evening on a project to make quiet MRI gradient systems.

Bill was a former Trustee, Gold Medal winner, and Fellow of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine. He was a Fellow of the American Institute of Physics (AIP) and received the AIP prize for Industrial Applications of Physics in 2005. In May 2013, he was awarded the 2013 Alumni Achievement Award by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he received his undergraduate degree in Physics. He earned his PhD from Harvard in 1974, and an honorary DSc from the University of Aberdeen in 2007. He was a Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow working on gravitational waves from 1974-1977, but then switched “fields” to join the MRI team at Aberdeen as a Research Fellow from 1977-1980.

Following Paul Lauterbur’s idea of using magnetic field gradients to spatially distinguish NMR signals, the problem of how best to deploy them to make images became central to the development of MRI in the late 1970’s. Ultimately three central ideas held sway: the projection or ‘read-out’ gradient; spatially-selective excitation; and phase-encoding or ‘spin-warp’. Bill Edelstein and the Aberdeen team were responsible for inventing the ‘spin-warp’ method. These techniques dominate MRI technology to this day, and are at its foundation. 

Bill left Aberdeen to work as a scientist in GE’s Schenectady NY research laboratories in 1980, on developing an ultra-high field whole-body magnet system, which became GE’s highly successful 1.5 Tesla whole body MRI scanner.  Bill’s other accomplishments made with the Schenectady team.
include developing the bird-cage coil, the phased array, the contrast-to-noise ratio, and the intrinsic signal-to-noise ratioto name a few.

Bill retired from GE and moved to Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Baltimore as Visiting Distinguished Professor in the Russell H. Morgan Department of Radiology and Radiological Science in 2007, where he worked on quiet MRI, RF dosimetry, and the fast MRI (e.g., <10 minute exam). He is survived by his wife Fiona, two daughters, a son and two grandchildren. He will long be remembered for his critical contributions to the field of MRI and as a friend.

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