Ferenc Jolesz

Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Department of Radiology mourn the passing of Ferenc A. Jolesz, MD, who died suddenly and unexpectedly due to a pulmonary embolism on December 31, 2014 while vacationing in Florida.

In a career that spanned over 30 years at the Brigham and Harvard Medical School,  Jolesz achieved world-wide recognition as a clinician-scientist; as one of the great innovators in advanced imaging technology; and as one of the foremost leaders in Radiology in this country and across the globe. He distinguished himself through cutting edge research in basic and clinical neuroscience, magnetic resonance imaging and image-guided therapy. Widely recognized as the “father of modern day image-guided therapy,” Jolesz spearheaded the development and implementation of highly novel approaches to image processing and analysis, visualization and navigation techniques. Under his visionary leadership, many minimally invasive and non-invasive image-guided therapies were successfully translated into clinical application.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, on May 21, 1946, he earned his medical degree from Semmelweis Medical School in 1971. He completed a research fellowship in biomedical engineering at K. Kando College of Electrical Engineering. He completed his residency in neurosurgery at the Institute of Neurosurgery (Budapest, Hungary).

Jolesz was invited to the United States in 1979 to begin a fellowship in neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Boston Biomedical Research Institute. This was followed by a research fellowship in physiology at Harvard Medical School. He subsequently joined the BWH Radiology Department in 1982, first as a clinical fellow in neuroradiology, then as a diagnostic radiology resident. He joined the faculty at BWH and HMS in 1985. As a fitting culmination to his outstanding career in radiology research, he was appointed as the first incumbent of the B. Leonard Holman Chair in Radiology at Harvard Medical School in 1998.

Jolesz maintained very strong ties to and great affection for Hungary and its people. He traveled there frequently and was active in the Hungarian scientific community, collaborating with his colleagues on various projects over the years. As a result of these efforts, Jolesz was inducted into the Hungarian National Academy of Sciences and received several awards and honorary degrees from Hungarian universities and national scientific societies, including the Szentgyorgyi Award of the Hungarian National Academy of Sciences.

Jolesz was also the driving force behind the first intra-operative MRI (the Signa SP, MRT), and more recently, the Advanced Multi-modality Image-Guided Operating (AMIGO) suite. Largely because of Jolesz’s pioneering work in image-guided therapy and experience in managing a large research enterprise, the National Institutes of Health established the National Center for Image-Guided Therapy at BWH in 1995. The “brain-child” of Jolesz that began 20 years earlier with MRT, the AMIGO suite opened in 2011. Its unique integration of MRI, PET, CT, ultrasound and angiography along with advanced navigational technologies in a single operating suite has revolutionized the way patients are evaluated before, during and after surgery.

Jolesz and his colleagues also introduced the first MRI-guided, focused ultrasound surgical (MRgFUS) procedure. This noninvasive method has been successfully applied to the treatment of solid neoplasms. Most recently, he was working on new applications of MRgFUS in functional neurosurgery, specifically, blood-brain barrier disruption for targeted drug delivery.

Jolesz was a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and received the Outstanding Researcher Award from the Radiological Society of North America and the Gold Medal of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine.

“Jolesz was an unrivalled leader, a fearless innovator, and a man of uncommon courage who had an infectious love of life that was evident to all who knew him,” wrote Steven E. Seltzer, MD, chair of the Department of Radiology, in a letter to the BWH community. “He did not hesitate to share his knowledge, expertise, advice, or counsel. Among his closest friends, colleagues and students, he was loved as much for his kindness, compassion, generosity and delightful sense of humor as he was recognized for his substantial medical and scientific achievements.”

He is survived by his wife of 43 years, Anna Jolesz, and his two daughters, Marta Jolesz and Klara Jolesz.

A memorial service will be held on Friday, February 6, beginning with a gathering of friends and colleagues at 2:30 p.m., followed by a service and a reception, at the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center at Harvard Medical School, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur, Boston, MA.

Details and additional information will be posted on his memorial website available at

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to:

The Ferenc A. Jolesz, MD Memorial Fund