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British Industrial History

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Oxford Instruments

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Oxford Instruments plc is an Abingdon based manufacturing and research company that designs and manufactures tools and systems for industry and research.

1959 The company was founded by Martin Wood and his wife Audrey, to manufacture superconducting magnets for use in scientific research, starting in his garden shed in Northmoor Road, Oxford, England. It was the first substantial commercial spin-out company from the University of Oxford

1983 Listed on the London Stock Exchange

It had a pioneering role in the development of magnetic resonance imaging, providing the first superconducting magnets for this application. The first commercial MRI whole body scanner was manufactured at its Osney Mead factory in Oxford in 1980 for installation at Hammersmith Hospital, London. Further innovations included the development of active shielding, whereby fringe fields hazardous to pacemaker wearers, causing difficulty and expense in siting, were virtually eliminated.

Oxford Instruments was not able to capitalise on these inventions itself, granting royalty-free license to Philips and General Electric whilst developing a joint venture with Siemens in 1989: this was dissolved in 2004

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