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Michel Ter-Pogossian
radiology ter-pogossian positron

1. Introduction

Michel Matthew Ter-Pogossian (April 21, 1925 – June 19, 1996) was an American medical physicist.[1] He was professor of radiology at the Washington University School of Medicine for over 30 years. A pioneer in nuclear medicine,[2] he is best known for his research on the positron emission tomography (PET). He is considered one of its creators and often referred to as the "father of PET."[3][4]

2. Early Life

Ter-Pogossian was born on April 21, 1925 in Berlin to Armenian parents from the Ottoman Empire that escaped the Armenian Genocide.[5][6] He was the only child.[7] His family later moved to France, where Ter-Pogossian grew up.[5][7] He developed an early interest in science and experimented with toy physics and chemistry kits as a child.[5][6][7] Ter-Pogossian attended the University of Paris, from which he received his bachelor's degree in mathematics[8] in 1942[1][5][6] or 1943.[7][9] He subsequently studied at the Institute of Radium under Irène Joliot-Curie, graduating in 1946.[1][7][9] He was active in the French Resistance during World War II.[5][6]

3. Career

Ter-Pogossian moved to the United States in 1946 to complete his studies.[6][7] He preferred the US over Britain because the former seemed "more exciting."[5][6] He enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis as a graduate student in 1946.[9] He was drawn to the university by and studied under Arthur Compton, who was also the university's chancellor at the time.[1][7] He simultaneously worked in the physics department as a research assistant.[7][9] Ter-Pogossian received his master's degree in 1948,[7] and his Ph.D. in nuclear physics from Washington University in 1950.[1][9]

He joined the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University in 1950.[7][9][10] In the same year he also joined the faculty of Washington University School of Medicine as an Instructor in Radiation Physics.[5][11] He was named professor of radiation physics in 1961, Professor of Biophysics in Physiology in 1964, and Professor of Radiation Sciences in 1973.[5][11]

Between 1963 and 1991 Ter-Pogossian served as Director of the Division of Radiation Sciences at the Mallinckrodt Institute.[5][6][11][12] After resigning from administrative duties in 1990, Ter-Pogossian devoted all his time to research.[5] He was a self-proclaimed "research junkie".[6][9] He became emeritus professor in 1995.[5][7][11]

4. Work

Ter-Pogossian spent his entire professional career at Washington University's Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology.[1] His research focused on "increasing the number of practical clinical applications of cerebral scanning."[10] His worked resulted in improvement of medical imaging, radiation therapy, brachytherapy. He developed a new type of nuclear medicine gamma camera, known as the "Ter-Pogossian camera."[1][9]

In 1951 Ter-Pogossian developed a pioneering scanner that detected radioactivity concentrations in living material.[6][8] In the mid-1950s he "reported the first biomedical application of a sodium iodide detector for the diagnosis and localization of intracranial tumors."[8]

4.1. Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

Ter-Pogossian was a pioneer in the use of cyclotron-produced radioactive tracers.[5] He is best known for his work on the positron emission tomography (PET). His research began in the 1950s with a series of experiments that made PET a "practical diagnostic tool"[1] by the 1970s.[6][8]

His early work led to the installation of a small biomedical cyclotron in the basement at the Washington University Medical Center in 1963.[8] He persuaded several government agencies to support the research.[1] It was the first cyclotron in the US located in a medical center.[8] The cyclotron produced short-lived, positron-emitting radionuclides intended to be used to develop techniques for measuring regional cerebral blood flow, oxygen metabolism, blood volume, and glucose metabolism.[8] The first PET unit was created in 1974 by the group led by Ter-Pogossian.[8] A decade later, PET units of that design were "used in many medical centers throughout the world."[8]

Ter-Pogossian is recognized to have "led the research that turned the positron emission tomography (PET) scanner from an intriguing concept to a medical tool used in hospitals and laboratories everywhere."[6] With Edward J. Hoffman and Michael E. Phelps "he played a major role turning positron imaging from a laboratory concept into practical imaging protocols and devices that are currently used worldwide."[5]

5. Personal Life and Death

Ter-Pogossian was married to Ann (née Scott). They had two sons and a daughter.[1][6] He was a resident of Clayton, Missouri.[13] He traveled extensively and was a gourmet and a scuba diver.[9] He was described by Ronald G. Evens as a "citizen of the world."[1]

He died on June 19, 1996 of apparent myocardial infarction in Paris, where he was vacationing.[1][5][6][9]

6. Recognition

Ter-Pogossian was an "internationally known pioneer in the use of cyclotron-produced radionuclides in biomedical research."[9] Frans Wackers noted that he is "widely recognized as one of the fathers of PET imaging."[5] He has been called "the father of PET" by some.[1][3][7][9] Ter-Pogossian emphasized that PET is the product of teamwork and elaborated:[14]

6.1. Awards

  • Paul C. Aebersold Award, Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (1976)[15]
  • Georg Charles de Hevesy Nuclear Medicine Pioneer Award, Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (1985)[8]
  • Canada Gairdner International Award (1993) "For contributions to the development and application of positron emission tomography"[10][16]

6.2. Membership

Ter-Pogossian was a member of many professional societies: charter member of the American Nuclear Society, fellow of the American Physical Society,[7] honorary fellow of the American College of Radiology,[8] Institute of Medicine (elected in 1987).[7]

He was a trustee of the Academy of Science, St. Louis and served as an adviser to several Department of Energy, National Institutes of Health and Food and Drug Administration committees.[7][8][9] He served on the editorial boards of several journals, including the American Journal of Roentgenology, the Journal of Nuclear Medicine, and the Journal de Biophysique & Médecine Nucléaire.[7][9] He was the first editor of the IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging, published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.[11]

Further Reading
In this part, we encourage you to list the link of papers wrote by the character, or published reviews/articles about his/her academic contributions. Edit


  1. Evens, Ronald G. (September 25, 1996). "Michel M. Ter-Pogossian, PhD". JAMA (American Medical Association) 276 (12): 1002. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540120080044.
  2. Kanno, Iwao; Takahashi, Miwako; Yamaya, Taiga (2020). "Michel M. Ter-Pogossian (1925–1996): a pioneer of positron emission tomography weighted in fast imaging and Oxygen-15 application". Radiological Physics and Technology (Japanese Society of Radiological Technology and Japan Society of Medical Physics) 13 (1): 1–5. doi:10.1007/s12194-019-00549-z. PMID 31828719.
  3. Rich, D. A. (March 1997). "A brief history of positron emission tomography". Journal of Nuclear Medicine Technology 25 (1): 4–11. PMID 9239597. "He was considered by many to be the father of PET...". 
  4. "Michel Ter-Pogossian (1925-96)". Science Museum, London. Archived from the original on 3 January 2020. "He became widely known as the ‘father of PET’." 
  5. Wackers, Frans J. Th. (August 2018). "Michael M. Ter-Pogossian (1925-1996)". Journal of Nuclear Cardiology 25 (4): 1090–1091. doi:10.1007/s12350-018-1313-9. PMID 29869324. 
  6. Saxon, Wolfgang (June 21, 1996). "Michel M. Ter-Pogossian, 71; Led Research on PET Scanner". The New York Times: p. 25. 
  7. "Michel M. Ter-Pogossian (1925-1996)". Washington University School of Medicine. Archived from the original on 3 January 2020.  originally published in Kunkler, Vicki (Summer 1996). "Michel M. Ter-Pogossian (1925-1996)". Focal Spot (Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology) 27 (2). 
  8. "Michel Ter-Pogossian Honored as Nuclear Medicine Pioneer". The Journal of Nuclear Medicine 26 (5): 449. May 1985. 
  9. Welch, Michael J.; Kunkler, Vicki L. (1996). "Obituaries: Michel M. Ter-Pogossian". Physics Today 49 (11): 100–101. doi:10.1063/1.881602. Bibcode: 1996PhT....49k.100W.
  10. Kaufman, Ron (June 14, 1993). "Five Americans Receive 1993 Gairdner Awards". Archived from the original on 5 January 2020. 
  11. Vannier, Michael W. (August 1996). "In Memoriam: Michel M. Ter-Pogossian". IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) 15 (4): 401. doi:10.1109/TMI.1996.511744. PMID 18215922.
  12. Other sources indicate 1973 as the year he became head of the Division of Radiation Sciences.[9][10]
  13. "Deaths: Michel M. Ter-Pogossian". The Washington Post. June 25, 1996. 
  14. Dumit, Joseph (2004). Picturing Personhood: Brain Scans and Biomedical Identity. Princeton University Press. pp. 41-44. ISBN 9780691113982.
  15. "Paul C. Aebersold Award Recipients". Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging. Archived from the original on 5 January 2020. "1976 Michael M. Ter-Pergossian, PhD" 
  16. "Michel M. Ter-Pogossian BA MS PHD". Gairdner Foundation. 
Name: Michel Ter-Pogossian
Born: Apr 1925
Died: Jun 1996
Berlin, Weimar Republic
Title: Medical Physicist
Affiliation: Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology (Washington University School of Medicine)
Honor: Canada Gairdner International Award (1993)
Subjects: Others
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Entry Collection: HandWiki
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Update Date: 25 Nov 2022
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