In Memoriam: Jack Belliveau

The Martinos Center and the fMRI community have lost a true pioneer with the passing of John (Jack) Belliveau.

Jack was a visionary member of the Martinos community for close to 30 years. Joining the Center as a new graduate student from the Biophysics program at Harvard, he quickly became a key contributor to our early efforts to measure perfusion with MRI. More importantly, however, his passion for understanding how the human brain works—he was convinced that someday we would be able to capture human thought—led him to explore the use of these newly developed perfusion imaging tools to study human brain function. That work led to his Ph.D. thesis, "Functional NMR Imaging of the Brain," starting the revolution in "Functional Imaging" that would benefit thousands of investigators over the next 30 years. His publication of the first fMRI pictures led to the iconic image on the cover of Science, accompanied by quotes from his thesis that have proven so prescient for how we perform dynamic fMRI today.

This work was undisputedly the very first use of MRI for human brain mapping. It set in motion the entire field of fMRI, including Ken Kwong’s remarkable fMRI images formed without the use of contrast agents the following year.  While Ken’s contribution was of undeniable creativity and impact, there is no doubt that the MGH’s exploration of the potential of MRI to study human brain function was started, and largely driven, by Jack and his vision for how MRI could transform how we study the human brain.

Jack was a remarkable person, intellectually and personally. He was a larger than life figure in our community (literally and spiritually), with an infectious enthusiasm for science that all who knew him learned to love. He showed a remarkable creativity and generosity throughout his career and life from the time he joined us as a graduate student until his passing.

We will miss him very much.

Please visit the Remembering Jack Belliveau page on Facebook to share your memories and photos. Also, we have posted videos from a June 2014 symposium celebrating Jack's life and work, with many warm rememberances from colleagues and friends.