Ian Isherwood, professor of diagnostic radiology at the University of Manchester from 1975 until his retirement in 1993, was at the vanguard of advances in the technology, teaching and applications of radiology. He aided in establishing diagnostic radiology as an important specialty in academic medicine internationally and developed one of the most successful and largest postgraduate teaching centres in the UK.
Ian was born in Batley, Yorkshire, the son of Roy Isherwood, a headmaster, and Elizabeth Madge Mary Isherwood née Grosse, a housewife. He was educated at Eccles Grammar School and went on to study medicine at the University of Manchester, graduating in 1954 and entering radiological training in Manchester in 1955. As a trainee radiologist he described and published a new radiographic projection of the foot to more clearly show the subtalar joint – this method is still known as ‘the Isherwood view’.
He was initially appointed as a consultant to the Derby hospitals (from 1961 to 1963), before moving back to the Manchester Royal Infirmary as a consultant neuroradiologist. In 1972, he visited James Ambrose at Atkinson Morley Hospital and, after seeing the prototype of the first computed tomography (CT) scanner, offered his assistance to the Department of Health in evaluating this new technology.
Ian went on to pioneer the use of CT scanning in medicine; the world’s first commercial CT head scanner was installed at Manchester Royal Infirmary in 1972, and the first commercial whole-body CT scanner in Europe was installed in the University’s department of diagnostic radiology in 1975. The use of CT scanning allowed for the diagnosis of conditions previously undiagnosed and made investigation of the brain a much more pleasant experience for the patient than the very invasive investigations previously used.
He was one of the first to recognise the huge impact that nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) imaging, later referred to as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), would have on the diagnosis and management of disease, and in 1983 the first cryogenic superconducting NMR scanner in Europe was installed at the University of Manchester.
He was the author of over 250 scientific publications and was actively involved in many national and international bodies in the field of radiology, receiving many accolades. These included the presidency of numerous national and international societies, including the British Institute of Radiology, the European Association of Radiology, the radiological section of the Royal Society of Medicine, the British Society of Neuroradiologists and the Manchester Medical Society. He was a radiological adviser to the chief medical officer, and one of two non-Russians to be elected as an academician of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences.
Ian was awarded the British Institute of Radiology Barclay prize in 1991 for contributions of special merit to the British Journal of Radiology by his team, the gold medal of the Royal College of Radiologists in 1995, and, in 1996, a CBE for his services to radiology. The International Society of Radiology gave him the Béclère medal in 1998, and he became an honorary fellow of the American College of Radiology in 1999.
There was one particular incident Ian recounted that shows the mettle of the man. It was in his citation for the honorary fellowship of the American College of Radiology by his good friend Michael Huckman, a radiologist from Chicago. Both were participating in a lecture programme in Brazil in 1993. Upon arrival at the airport, Ian’s hand luggage, containing slides, passport and money, was stolen. Despite his anguish at losing these, he went on to present his three lectures without slides. At no time did he apologise to the audience but carried on as if the lectures were designed to be given without slides. His superb command of the English language claimed the rapt attention of the audience, most of whom heard the lectures translated into Portuguese.
Ian also had other interests including working with the curators of the Manchester Museum to pioneer the use of CT in Egyptology and the investigation of mummies. He was a founder member and chairman of the Radiology History and Heritage Charitable Trust, and was dean of the newly-formed European College of Radiological Education between 1992 and 1996.
He had a lifelong interest in cricket and the novels of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Following his retirement, he continued his work on the history of radiology and radiography in Manchester and beyond, from 1896 to 2010. This included documenting his career as a neuroradiologist and, in particular, his role in pioneering the use of CT and NMR imaging at Manchester. These records are now in the John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester and are known as the ‘Ian Isherwood papers’.
Ian had a long and happy marriage to Jean (née Pennington), who became his trusted travel companion and predeceased him by five weeks. They had three children, Jennifer, Judith and Christopher, and five grandchildren, Ben, Tom, Alex, Mark and Grace.
[BIR – The British Institute of Radiology – Ian Isherwood www.bir.org.uk/12483.aspx – accessed 18 December 2019;
Eur Radiol (2019) 29: 2727. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00330-018-5818-z
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00330-018-5818-z – accessed 18 December 2019]