The Lancet publishes a series exploring the relationship between medicine and physics, the history and importance of imaging in medicine, and the tremendous impact physics will have on medicine in years to come.
Physics has made critically important contributions to health ever since the birth of medicine 5000 years ago. These contributions have been, and continue to be, many and varied: diagnosis (X-rays, nuclear medicine, clinical PET scanning, magnetic resonance spectroscopy, magnetoencephalography, high-intensity focused ultrasound with MRI); treatment (radiotherapy, minimal-access surgery, interventional MRI, photonics, scaling theory); and a combination of diagnosis and treatment. These contributions will grow as the molecular mechanisms of disease are better understood and as new technologies enable the investigation of these molecular processes in vivo. Medical physicists have an especially important part to play; for example, in patient safety, ensuring the safe, as well as the effective, implementation of new physics-based health technologies.