MRI took the mystery out of medicine. Doctors, scientists and researchers could—for the first time ever—examine the inside of the human body in high detail without surgical equipment or lasting scars. No scalpels. No anesthesia. No radiation. Just a machine that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to capture internal snapshots of the body—also known as magnetic resonance imaging.

MRI machines aren’t the brainchild of one genius, but rather the result of frenetic competition between rival project teams in the 1970s. Two scientists, Paul Lauterbur and Peter Mansfield, paved the way for MRI as an imaging technique in 1973 (earning them the 2003 Nobel Prize for medicine). Raymond Damadian, physician and medical scientist, is the one who pursued MRI as a tool to pinpoint disease, successfully conducting the first full-body scan in 1977.

These collective achievements led to more sophisticated whole-body MRI prototypes in the 1980s and skyrocketing adoption in the 1990s. Today, the machines are a routine check. And with no sign of MRI use and reach abating, teams continue to make improvements. Case in point: Scientists have introduced mobile MRI machines as well as miniature MRI devices that can better capture brain images of premature babies.