Finding a Place of His Own

In 1949, Britton Chance became the Director of the Eldridge Reeves Johnson Research Foundation, devoted to biomedical physics, at the University of Pennsylvania. At the Johnson Foundation, Chance elaborated upon his earlier work with enzymes and expanded his research to cells, tissues, and eventually humans. He continued to innovate new technologies for the advancement of the biomedical sciences. In the late 1970s he became a pioneer in the use of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) for the study of the human brain and limbs. He then shifted his focus and developed an optical method using non-invasive near infrared (NIR) technology. NIR had numerous applications including locating tumors and cancerous tissues, non-invasively observing brain injuries, identifying internal bleeding, and observing muscle activity. In the early 2000s, Chance employed this method to study how the brain solves problems and, after September 11, 2001, he further applied it in an attempt to understand "the nature of the deceitful, malevolent mind."

Click on the images below to learn more about Chance's technological innovation.

1. After some successful collaboration using NMR with small animals, Chance and George Radda decided that they should pursue building an NMR magnet for human limbs. Here is Chance modeling the new machine.
2. Chance went on to apply NMR technology to the head and torso. Here is an early sketch from his notebook.
3. Here Chance sketches out his idea for applying NMR to the human head and torso. The specific measurements refer to the size of the magnet.
4. This letter outlines the history of the development of Phosphorus NMR. The complete letter can be found in the digital library.
5. Chance also developed a non-invasive optical method that used near-infrared (NIR) technology to study brain imaging, cancer, and muscle function. The data pictured here was collected by students from Chance's Minority Summer Program.
6. Another major focus of Chance's NIR research was breast cancer. This sketch from his notebook outlines the details for a device used to detect cancer.
7. Post 9/11, Chance dedicated his resources and time to applying optical NIR technology to studying the deceitful mind.
8. Early sketch of a device that Chance called the Deceit Detector, designed to discover malice in the human brain.
9. Finished design for airport security.

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