APS News

January 2014 (Volume 23, Number 1)

Letters to the Editor

Supermagnets–Where Did They Come From?

In his November 2013 APS News letter Philip W. Anderson cites an instance of a senator's incorrect impression regarding the origin of supermagnet technology. Unfortunately, that incorrect impression is widespread.

For example, an article in the "Phenomena, Comment, and Notes" section of the December 1994 issue of Smithsonian states that, "The techniques that made it possible to produce such a magnet [a supermagnet for use in a magnetic resonance medical imaging (MRI) system] were developed at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory." Perhaps the author took at face value a FNAL public relations publication of that era entitled, The Benefits of High-Energy Physics Research, which contains the statement that, "The underlying magnet technology for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) came from particle physics research."

That same claim was echoed by the then-director of FNAL at a meeting I attended at that time in Washington, DC. In fact, the true paternity of practical supermagnets must be attributed to Kunzler, Buehler, Hsu, and Wernick [Phys. Rev. Lett. 6, 89 (1961)], then at Bell Telephone Laboratories [see also The Back Page]. They, and others who pioneered supermagnet science and technology, were not high-energy physicists, nor was supermagnet development a significant activity within high-energy physics projects until after definitive proof-of-principal demonstrations had been achieved. At that point incorporation of supermagnets into MRI systems, particle accelerators, and a multitude of other applications could be undertaken with little risk.

Of course, none of this is intended to denigrate in any way the very remarkable accomplishments of FNAL in successfully applying the then-relatively-mature supermagnet technology to the Tevatron on a scale of unprecedented magnitude.

Ted G. Berlincourt
Elk, California

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Michael Lucibella
Art Director and Special Publications Manager: Kerry G. Johnson
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik

January 2014 (Volume 23, Number 1)

APS News Home

Issue Table of Contents

APS News Archives

Contact APS News Editor

Articles in this Issue
Corporate Reform for a Stronger APS
April Meeting Flies South
New APS President Sees Opportunity in Changing Times
APS Treasurer/Publisher to Step Down
Physical Review Applied Call For Papers
APS Releases Statement on Undergraduate Research for Member Comment
Imprisoned Physics Student Declared Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International
Diversity Census Seeks Clearer Picture of Membership
New Alternative Energy Fellowship Established
Letters to the Editor
The Back Page
Members in the Media
This Month in Physics History
APS Committee on International Freedom of Scientists
Profiles in Versatility
Washington Dispatch