Stossel: NASA Brought us CAT Scans?

Anyone who knows me could guess that my DVR is full of Stossel episodes.  I think the man and his crew are doing an excellent job distributing the ideas of individual liberty and freedom into the mainstream.  I was surprised this weekend, however, to hear him attribute the invention of the CAT scan to NASA.  This is not in line with the origin story I have heard, so I did a little bit of research.  Now this should not be taken as an attempt to scoop Stossel, as it is one of my favorite shows.  Rather, I am chasing down what I see as a theme of attributing to NASA the full-scale development of any project with which it was associated.

I did a little bit of very superficial research which confirmed what I had heard about the origin of the CAT scanner.  The first commercial machine was developed by Sir Godfrey Hounsfield in the UK, at EMI Central Research Laboratories, the very same company which held the record label for The Beatles.  The popular tale says that it was the success of The Beatles that helped fund the research lab which led to the development of the CT, but of course, this is difficult to confirm.  The invention of the scanner was preceded by a series of advancements and discoveries in x-ray technology, imaging and mathematics dating back to the early 1900's.  In my brief research, I found very little specific attribution to NASA except a few statements on NASA-related websites indicating that image processing technology developed for the Apollo program is used in modern CT imaging.  No doubt the program deserves credit for advancements made under its many programs.  Clearly there have been several that have had considerable, positive impact on human life.  However it is not fair to, as is commonly done, attribute recognition in toto for the development of a technology in which the program played only a bit part.  This only serves the fuel the drumbeat for greater government funding of research and development, a task better left to the market as I have discussed in detail previously.


And so, every time we object to a thing being done by Government, it concludes that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of education by the State—then we are against education altogether. We object to a State religion—then we would have no religion at all. We object to an equality which is brought about by the State then we are against equality, etc., etc. They might as well accuse us of wishing men not to eat, because we object to the cultivation of corn by the State. -- Frederic Bastiat

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