Festival has consultant booked to sing praises of ‘magic doughnut’

editorial image

APART from antibiotics, the development of the CT scanner has been the most important medical advance in the last 100 years.

That is the view of Dr John Reid, consultant radiologist at the Borders General Hospital (BGH) where the diagnostic ability of the doughnut-shaped machine has saved untold lives.

John’s enthusiasm for the computed tomography (CT) scanner and the man who developed it knows no bounds and he has given numerous talks on his passion at international gatherings of his peers.

Recently appointed president of the Scottish Radiological Society, John, who lives just outside Galashiels, is relishing the prospect of sharing his wit and wisdom about the machine and its inventor – Sir Godfrey Newbold Hounsfield – with an audience at the Borders Book Festival next month.

“I feel a bit of a fraud among all the great literary minds who will be at the festival, but I feel it really is a story worth telling,” John told TheSouthern.

John, who as president of the Trimontium Trust is used to waxing lyrical about the Roman occupation of the Borders, will use actual scans and slides to demonstrate Hounsfield’s remarkable discovery when he presents Godfrey’s Magic Doughnut at the Lochcarron Marquee in Harmony Gardens, Melrose, on Thursday, June 14, at 6.15pm.

“The general public don’t realise just how CT scanning has changed the face of modern medicine and, I suspect, they know even less about the scientist who developed it.

“It is, to my mind, the greatest piece of medical technology of all time and it’s almost exactly 40 years ago since it took its first rotation round a patient’s head.”

That moment, at a London hospital, propelled Hounsfield, an electrical engineer with no university education, towards a Nobel Prize in 1979.

Hounsfield pioneered the idea of taking X-rays at various angles to create an image of an enclosed object in slices, later applying this to the medical field with a prototype head scanner which he tested on a preserved human brain. In 1975 he built the first whole-body scanner to use what is now known as computed tomography.

By the time he died in 1984, Hounsfield had correctly predicted that his technology would one day lead to the crisp 3D images which are now provided by the state-of-the-art CT scanners at the BGH.

“It’s impossible to say how many lives have been saved by the magic doughnut,” said John. “We can scan stroke and cardiac patients and it remains a huge boon in neurology. Of course, its biggest impact is in the detection and monitoring of cancer.”

Tickets for John Reid’s illustrated talk (£9, £7 concessions) can be booked on 0844 357 1060 or online at boxoffice@bordersbookfestival.org