Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, and . . . Raymond Damadian? Why would a relatively unknown but brilliant inventor be mentioned in the same sentence as these others? Moreover, why was he even lifted above Ford and Jobs at his funeral service?
Now, you have certainly heard of Dr. Damadian’s remarkable invention: the MRI scanner. It’s quite possible one of your family members or a friend has benefited from one of his MRI machines exposing a tumor or diagnosing an illness.1 Damadian’s scanner has saved the lives of millions of grateful patients.
What set Dr. Damadian apart from most gifted inventors? He started from scratch. When his son Jevan eulogized his beloved father, he pointed out that Ford improved on the horseless carriage and Jobs made computers smaller and accessible to a wider audience (including via smartphones). On the other hand, the first MRI scan and MRI machine were Dr. Damadian’s. More importantly, his scanner served a humanitarian purpose as it revolutionized medicine and saved countless lives. In the annals of human inventors, he will loom larger than most.
What drove this exceptionally gifted medical scientist and devout Christian to invent the MRI scanner? It was the combination of a brilliant mind and a Christian heart of compassion to heal people. His daughter, Keira, stated it this way, “He had the heart of a healer.” One tragic event in particular moved him to act.
At age 10, Dr. Damadian watched his beloved grandmother (who lived in the same household) endure a long and extremely painful form of cancer. She finally succumbed. Years later, he graduated from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, bent on fighting cancer. Dr. Damadian’s Christian values and his family’s tragic history (enduring persecution in their native Armenia) also made him a compassionate man. The words gentle and compassion were often uttered during his New York funeral. But don’t be led to believe this “gentle genius,” as he was dubbed, lacked the fire in the belly to benefit mankind and also honor his Creator.
It was while on the medical school faculty of SUNY Downstate Medical Center that he began his long journey to create the MRI. The story can get technical, but in layperson’s terms, Dr. Damadian’s MRI machine was able to make images of parts of the body (including possible tumors) as they reacted to radio waves and a strong magnetic field. Bottom line: doctors were now able to non-invasively clearly visualize organs and tumors and offer a diagnosis. MRI scanning avoided the risk of exploratory surgery.
As a keen critical thinker, this eminent scientist saw right through the claims of evolutionists. He was not shy about declaring that molecules-to-man evolution was a bankrupt belief system. In Gifted Mind,2 his biographer wrote that Damadian considered evolution a “tragic hoax foisted upon mankind” and lamented that society was increasingly ignoring that we “are creations of a gracious God.”3
Dr. Damadian was a long-time supporter of creation-apologetics organizations. His generous heart led him to offer his scanning services to the staff of Answers in Genesis at no charge. He welcomed them to Long Island, New York, to have the master himself read their scans and offer a diagnosis, along with treatment options. He also flew to Northern Kentucky in 2016 to attend the ribbon cutting of AiG’s Ark Encounter.
Dr. Damadian was a renaissance man. Few knew he was an accomplished musician (he attended prestigious Julliard) and a professional tennis player. His dexterity was used to build his scanning machine. Dr. Damadian was also a student of history. He was known to tell people that the nation of his heritage, Armenia, was the first Christian nation on earth (AD 301). He also possessed a delightful techie (shall we say, geeky?) side. To commemorate this idiosyncrasy, at his funeral, nine of his male family members sported pocket protectors full of pens, sharpies, a highlighter, and an Exacto knife—as was the great inventor’s trademark.
Dr. Damadian participated in the famous 2014 evolution/creation debate between Bill Nye, TV’s “Science Guy,” and Ken Ham, founder of AiG. Nye had been publicly proclaiming that teaching creation to children would hold back the nation’s scientific progress and that a creationist cannot be a good scientist. The debate topic was whether holding a creationist worldview hindered or helped science. The contest was decided at the very outset when Ham showed a brief video of the renowned life-saving MRI scientist, who rejected evolution. Debate over. Nye’s premise was obliterated.
Dr. Damadian was honored by President Ronald Reagan with the National Medal of Technology in a White House ceremony in 1988 and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1989. His first scanner, which he called Indomitable (that word could also describe the good doctor), is part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution.
Several scientists and medical doctors have publicly pointed out that Dr. Damadian did not receive the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2003 because of his creationist beliefs, whereas two others did for their MRI research (brilliant men in their own rights).4 Vocal anti-creationist Dr. Michael Ruse declared that the omission was probably intentional and due to Damadian being a creationist.5 Dr. Damadian also had to endure a challenge to the patent he held on the MRI scanner when a huge corporation infringed on it. After a protracted, very expensive legal battle, the courts decided in his favor.
History is clear about the true father of the MRI. Dr. Damadian published an article on the possibility of creating a magnetic resonance scanner in the journal Science in 1971. He applied for a patent for his scanning method in 1972, and it was granted in 1974. He conducted the first MRI study of a human body in 1977. So, forget Nobel. Today, Dr. Damadian is enjoying a far greater reward, and it is an eternal, noble one.
At the funeral, it was suggested that Dr. Damadian’s fatal heart attack had been brought on by the grief of losing his beloved wife, Donna, in 2020. A funeral-goer proposed that an MRI scan would have revealed a broken heart. They had nine grandchildren and three great-grandchilden.
Dr. Damadian was 86.