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Allan MacLeod Cormack
|Died||May 7, 1998
|Known for||Computed tomography|
Allan MacLeod Cormack (February 23, 1924 – May 7, 1998) was a South African American Physicist. He is best known for his work on X-ray computed tomography (CT). He won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1979 for his work. He shared the prize with Godfrey Hounsfield.
Cormack was born on February 23, 1924 in Johannesburg, South Africa. During his early years, he attended the Rondebosch Boys' High School in Cape Town, and was a member of the debating and tennis teams. In 1944, Cormack received his B.Sc. in physics from the University of Cape Town and in 1945, he received his M.Sc. in crystallography in 1945 from the university. From 1947 to 1949, he attended University of Cambridge as a research student. While there, he met Barbara Seavey, an American physics student. Comack and Seavey would later get married.
After they got married, Cormack returned to lecture at the University of Cape Town in early 1950. After he took a break at Harvard from 1956 to 1957, Cormack and Seavey moved to the United States. He would then take a job as a professor at Tufts University in 1957. In 1966, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Even though he was mostly working on particle physics, he had a side interest in x-ray technology which led him to develop the theoretical underpinnings of CT scanning. The work that he did on this started at the University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital in early 1956. It continued shortly in mid-1957 after he returned from his break. His results were afterwards published in two papers in the Journal of Applied Physics in 1963 and 1964. The papers that had been published drew hardly any interest until the first CT scanner was built by Hounsfield and colleagues in 1971 which took Cormack's theoretical calculations into a real application. He was then the recipient of the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine which he shared with Godfrey Hounsfield. In 1990, he was awarded the National Medal of Science.
Cormack and his wife had three children; Margaret, Jean and Robert. Cormack died on May 7, 1998 in Winchester, Massachusetts from cancer. On 10 December 2002, Cormack was posthumously awarded the Order of Mapungubwe for his outstanding achievements as a scientist and for co-inventing the CT scanner.
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