Viking Valor: Weston Anderson

Student writers have been interviewing Kingsburg High alumni who’ve made significant contributions in their fields for the “Viking Valor” series that appears on the school’s website. Here is Class of 1946’s Weston Anderson known for aiding in the development of Magnetic Resonance Imaging technology.

Weston Anderson, a graduate of the [Kingsburg High School] class of 1946, has been a leading contributor in the field of scientific advancement by paving the way to the modern Magnetic Resonance Imaging [MRI].

In fact, Anderson created the approach that improved nuclear magnetic resonance [NMR] that was later applied to the MRI. His contributions lead to the application of NMR to the MRI by scientist Richard Ernst and him being awarded the 1991 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

Anderson was born in Kingsburg in 1928 and attended Kingsburg schools. At an early age, Anderson cultivated a strong interest in science. Throughout high school, he was fascinated with the inner workings of radios. As a result, the music store in town gave him old radios that he disassembled and reassembled discovering the electronics of the machines and how they functioned.

He learned so much about these devices that before graduating from high school, Anderson earned his commercial radio license and radio amateur license that he still maintains today. In high school there was one teacher, Gilbert Ewan, who sparked a particular interest in Anderson to explore science further and possibly at the prestigious Stanford University.

After graduating from Kingsburg High, Anderson enrolled at Reedley College for two years and then continued to Stanford. It was there that Anderson majored in physics and minored in electrical engineering and math. He went on to earn his Masters and Ph. D in physics.

Weston was inspired by his Nobel Prize winning professor, Felix Bloch, who worked on the team to develop the NMR. After graduating, he traveled to Geneva and continued to study and analyze the chemical properties of magnets. While there he continued to conduct research correlating to the NMR.

Upon return to the States, Anderson went on to work at Varian Associates (VA) in Palo Alto and continued his studies of NMR. Soon after, famous scientist Richard Ernst joined the team working at VA. It was here that Anderson discovered the method that ultimately led to the sensitivity of the commercial NMR.

The discovery of the NMR that is still in use today was made by Ernst while Anderson was abroad. Ernst used the method that Anderson had created it and applied it to the MRI. This cut down the amount of time it took to image humans. This put Ernst and Anderson at the forefront of medical science discovery.

For this application of methods and other discoveries, Ernst was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry. Anderson received an invitation and an all-expense paid trip to Stockholm with his wife to attend the award ceremony. Though Anderson did not directly receive the Nobel Prize himself, his work was one of the major steps to the success of the modern MRI and medicine and general medicine.

He eventually retired to Palo Alto with his wife and children. Anderson and his wife return to the annual Swedish Festival every year and present one Kingsburg graduate with the Weston Anderson Science Scholarship worth $10,000. This scholarship is available to any student hoping to pursue a career in a scientific field.

“It’s such a significant gift that allows students to pursue their dreams. Through their generosity, many of our students have been able to pursue a future in science,” commented KHS head counselor Marlene Pavlina.

All in all, Anderson has greatly given back to the community from which he came and has been at the forefront of scientific discovery and inquiry. Anderson has shown the true embodiment of Vikings and the Viking Way through courage, perseverance and diligence.

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