Manfred Börgens
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Cormack stamp

South Africa 1996   Scott 955d   Michel 1028


Allan McLeod Cormack (1924 - 1998)   Nobel Prize Medicine 1979

Allan Cormack was a physicist who contributed to mathematics by his pioneering research in the field of Radon transform and its application to computer tomography (CT). This is the reason why I included Cormack's stamp in my collection.

Allan Cormack was of Scottish descent and was born in South Africa. In his youth, he took interest in astronomy. Later, he wrote: "I learnt that a knowledge of mathematics and physics was essential to the pursuit of astronomy. This increased my fondness for those subjects."

Cormack studied Electrical Engineering, Physics and Crystallography. In 1956, he started to work in the United States and became a professor at Tufts University. His primary research field was fundamental particle physics. His work in CT began as a mere side line to his main scientific interests.

In contrast to classical X-ray techniques, the CT-generated cross section images are computed mathematically. This is done by applying the Radon transform - named after the Austrian mathematician Johann Radon. The tricky task with this transform is computing its inverse (the backward transform). In most applications, the inversion has to be performed by a computer. From 1963 on, Allan Cormack published fundamental mathematical papers dealing with the Radon transform inversion problem.

In 1979, Allan Cormack earned the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. He shared the prize with Godfrey Hounsfield who had built the first prototype of a computer tomograph.

Cormack's name can be traced in mathematical literature by the notion of Cormack-type inversion of exponential Radon transform. After having been honored by the Nobel award, he continued to work in this domain. His later publications include the following two papers:

The Radon transform on a family of curves in the plane, Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society (1983)

Radon's Problem - old and new, Proceedings of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and the American Mathematical Society (1984)


Published 2017-05-01          last update 2017-03-05


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