CollectionGB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections
Ref NoMS 4040
TitleDr. James McDonald Strachan Hutchison, physicist: papers
Datec.1950s - 2013
Extent13 archive boxes: 4.29 linear metres
Creator NameDr. James McDonald Strachan Hutchison
Administrative HistoryDr. James McDonald Strachan Hutchison (1940 - 2018). Department of Medical Physics.

Born in 1940, Dr. James “Jim” Strachan Hutchison demonstrated an affinity for science at a young age, jotting down science fiction stories and his thoughts about physics in his elementary-age notebooks. His passion and skill for science continued throughout his high school years, inspiring him to pursue a degree at St. Andrews. He worked for a short time at Marconi's after achieving his undergraduate degree before returning to St. Andrews to begin his work on electron spin resonance, for which he received a P.h.D.

Hutchison was recruited alongside fellow post-graduate Meg Foster in 1967 by Professor John Mallard; Foster and Hutchison later married. Mallard, chair of medical physics in Aberdeen in 1965, conceived Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) in medicine in the early 1960s when he sought a medical application for his knowledge of magnetism. Measures of Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) had been found capable of indicating the presence of tumors. Mallard was inspired to develop a scanner that could display the array of ESR signals from the body, allowing for the depiction of tumors and other tissue abnormalities without any injection of radioactivity. It was this hypothetical machine that Hutchison, Foster, and Mallard worked to develop; they were later joined by an American physicist, Dr. Bill Edelstein.

The Aberdeen team turned to Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) as a more practical human imager than ESR, as the NMR of protons occurs at a frequency at which the problems of absorption and scatter of radiation are less. Headed by Drs. Hutchison and Mallard, the team produced their first NMR image of a whole mouse in March 1974, a world first. Unexpectedly, this image also included visible pathology. Based on this result, the team then ventured to build a whole body imager in the same year designed for clinical use, and their methods eventually surpassed that of five other teams striving for magnetic resonance imaging in their aptitude for clinical application.

Dr. Hutchison introduced the inversion-recovery pulse sequence for obtaining T1-weighted images in 1975, allowing for images with improved tissue contrast. By 1979, images had been obtained of volunteers but none of these were clear enough for diagnostic use. In 1980, the two-dimensional Fourier transform methods (nicknamed “spin-warp” imaging) were developed and introduced; these methods rectified the faulty method of localizing signals through the patient from back to front. The Fourier transform method gave an accurate distribution of the signals in the two dimensions of the transverse plane across the patient, allowing for the production of diagnostic-quality images. Hutchison continued his work well into the last decade of his life; the last personal notebook contains his notes from 2013. Hutchison’s work with NMR led to numerous awards, patents, and publications, some of which can be viewed in this collection.

Hutchison passed away in 2018.
Custodial HistoryPersonal notebooks and certificates/awards have been kept in the custody of Dr. James McDonald Strachan Hutchison and later, his wife, Dr. Margaret Hutchison, née Foster. Laboratory books and papers were kept separately in the care of the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition, Forsterhill and donated via David Lurie and Hugh Seton.
SourcePersonal (VB) notebooks and additional papers relating to awards donated by Dr Margaret Hutchison, January 2020.

Laboratory books and papers from the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition, Foresterhill via David Lurie and Hugh Seton in January 2020.
DescriptionThis collection naturally divides into Hutchinson's personal work and Hutchison's professional work.

There are a total of 131 personal notebooks, which document Hutchison’s academic interest in science and personal learning with imaginative fiction. These notebooks span several decades and early works chronicle a futuristic story on the subject of time travel, spearheaded by the fictional protagonists David Greene and Victor Brown (VB).
7 early notebooks in the series are missing.

The collection also includes Hutchison's personal awards and certificates and Hutchison's professional material.
This includes; laboratory notebooks on the subjects of NMR Imaging 1 - 7, Ultrasonics 1, JSPEC Manual, Impedance Imaging, Finances, E.S.R.V (1967 - 1968 and subject files related to Mk.1 Diagrams, N.M.R Mk2 Circuit and layout blueprints, Mk 1 scans, Photocopies of offprints, Zeugmatograms, Circuits.
ArrangementPersonal notebooks arrived labelled with an existing documentary system, created by Hutchinson, and are numbered consecutively from 2489 prefixed by the letters VB.
Access StatusOpen
Related MaterialMedals held by Museums.
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