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OpEdNews, a blog that bills itself as “progressive, tough, liberal,” carried a story this week about the contribution of the Beatles to radiology. The story said profits from Beatles records allowed Electric and Musical Industries, Limited, to finance the development of the first commercial X-ray computed tomography scanner.

Electric and Musical Industries, better known as EMI, began in 1931 as a musical and recording company. EMI soon branched out into other electronic and electrical engineering ventures, including radar, microwave devices, television cameras, and computers.

The OpEdNews author, a musician and writer named Danny Finley, calls himself Panama Red, after a famous strain of marijuana. So perhaps it’s not surprising that he gets a few details wrong.

Finley contends that EMI shelved Godfrey Hounsfield’s computed tomography research until money from EMI’s Beatles recordings allowed the company to resume funding.

Finley misspells Hounsfield’s name as “Hounsfeld” and exhibits a shaky—at best—grasp of radiologic technology: “All other modalities, PET scans and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), are descendants of Hounsfeld’s idea.” But he’s not the first to suggest that the Beatles made possible EMI’s CT scanner, which hit the market in 1971. Making similar claims have been, among others, the tech media Web site c|net and even the always-authoritative Wikipedia.

Radiologists to the rescue! Zeev V. Maizlin, MD, associate professor of radiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and Patrick M. Vos, MD, clinical assistant professor of radiology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, published an article on this very topic in the March-April 2012 issue of the Journal of Computer Assisted Tomography.

The title: “Do We Really Need to Thank the Beatles for the Financing of the Development of the Computed Tomography Scanner?” The conclusion: no.

Not counting the salaries of Hounsfield and his team, the article says, EMI spent about $100,000 developing CT. But the British health ministry spent $606,000. So British taxpayers, not Beatles record buyers, should get the credit, the article says. The abstract does add:

The Beatles’ input into the world’s culture is valuable and does not require decoration by nonexistent connection to the development of CT.

So, whom are you going to believe, a couple of radiologists or Panama Red?

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Related CME seminar (up to 20.25 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): Computed Body Tomography: The Cutting Edge

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