Peter Mansfield, a British physicist who received the Nobel Prize for discoveries that led to the development of magnetic resonance imaging, a revolutionary diagnostic advance in medicine that helped doctors detect cancer and examine the brain and internal organs, died Wednesday. He was 83.

The University of Nottingham in England, where he was a physics professor, announced his death.

Mansfield, who grew up in a London slum and was told by a school guidance counselor that he had no future in science, was a printer’s apprentice before his curiosity and determination led him to a life in science.

In the 1970s, he devised methods to produce three-dimensional images from MRI machines that allowed physicians to peer into the inner workings of the body in real time.

Before noninvasive MRI machines came into widespread use, patients often underwent potentially dangerous X-ray examinations or had tissue surgically removed for study.

“His work is correctly credited with changing the face of modern medicine,” Colin Blakemore, chief executive of Britain’s Medical Research Council, said in 2003.

By the time Mansfield was awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, which he shared with U.S. scientist Paul Lauterbur, millions of MRI scans were being conducted each year on patients around the world.

The science behind MRI had been known since the 1940s, when physicists discovered that the nuclei in certain atoms spin in predictable ways when subjected to a magnetic field. The nuclei also gain energy when exposed to radio waves. When the radio waves are turned off, the nuclei continue to emit radio signals that can be measured and used to identify different atomic structures.

In the early 1970s, Mansfield learned that Lauterbur, then at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, had used MRI techniques to produce two-dimensional images.

Mansfield built on his discoveries, using mathematical methods to develop fast, efficient ways to transform the magnetically charged atomic radio signals into three-dimensional images.