A Brief History of the X-ray
When it comes to determining the extent of a bone injury or even looking inside a box at an airport, the value of the X-ray is immediately apparent. The machines are so prevalent throughout hospitals, doctor offices, airports, and many other locations that most people have come to take this technology for granted. Understanding the history behind this priceless invention can help improve the appreciation people have of the incredible ability to take pictures of bones.
Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen and the first X-rays
Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen was a scientist who was working with cathode rays, better known as electron beams. One day in 1895 he discovered that he could create a new type of beam by encapsulating positive and negative electrodes in a glass bulb, evacuating the air, and applying an electric charge. He also quickly discovered that the new rays could pass through heavy paper and could create shadows of objects as well. One of the first experiments he did with this new technology was take a picture of his wife’s hand. The image he created clearly showed the bones of her hand along with her rings.
The new discovery quickly ignited the interest of other scientists around the world. They were able to duplicate this experiment because cathode rays were a common tool in laboratories. Rontgen named the new rays “X-rays,” with the “X” standing for “unknown.” Although one of the first demonstrations by Rontgen involved using the rays for industrial purposes, the technology was used predominantly in the medical and dental fields until around 1912. At this time, a high-powered X-ray tube was developed which offered the voltage necessary to use the rays in industrial capacities.
William Coolidge and the advancement of the X-ray
William Coolidge brought the technology developed by Rontgen to the next level. He invented an X-ray tube now known as the Coolidge tube. These tubes allowed for the use of X-rays up to 100,000 volts, and became the basis for medical X-rays still used today.
Over the next few decades, enhancements to the original X-ray continued. In the 1920s the 200,000-volt X-ray was developed and by the 1970s the CAT scan was invented, which took X-rays to the 3 dimensional levels.
Improving daily use of the X-ray
Since X-rays can reveal such critical information, it is important to make sure that they are kept very organized to avoid confusion. Those who work in radiology and frequently use medical X-rays should make sure to always properly label all X-rays with specialized jackets and inserts, such as those sold by The Filing Supplies Shop.
The history of radiology is fascinating. A few incredible events revolutionized large aspects of medicine, including how injuries are discovered and monitored. Understanding this history can help both those in the medical field and patients increase their appreciation for the development of this essential technology, and the people who made the discoveries that have benefited generations.