Something we can be thankful for this year in the medical imaging world is the invention and progression of x-rays. X-ray technology has certainly advanced in the 20th century, making it one of the most invaluable diagnostic tools in radiology.
A Trip Down Memory Lane
X-rays were initially discovered in 1895 by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, who went on to receive the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901. Since then, several important discoveries have been made that have revolutionized the development of x-rays.
Researchers recently tested first-generation x-ray machine equipment from 1896 and found that it produced radiation doses to the skin (hand x-ray) that was 1,500 times higher than the dose from a modern x-ray machine. Moreover, the exposure time needed to image the hand decreased from 90 minutes in 1896 to about 20 milliseconds in 2010. Though there was some image blurring, the century-old system surprisingly produced good images with clearly visible anatomical details. This was the first time methodical measurements on this equipment had been done, since the systems had quickly been replaced by more sophisticated ones.
It is apparent that x-rays have come a long way, improving rapidly with significantly lower radiation doses and exposure time, not to mention improved image quality, making it one of the most convenient and safest imaging modalities.Continue Reading
Interesting Facts About Röntgen, the Inventor of X-Rays
- Röntgen had never received a high school diploma, and was even kicked out of college. Despite his lack of valid credentials, he went on to become a renowned physicist, graduating with a PhD in 1869 from the University of Zurich, and eventually received offers to teach at various universities.
- Great things happen when you least expect it…or don’t expect it at all. Röntgen actually invented the X-Ray purely by chance. In 1895, he was working in his lab experimenting with cathode rays to prove that the powerful rays could penetrate glass. Instead, he discovered a new kind of ray (a shimmering of the barium platinocyanide screen) that he temporarily called an “x-ray”. As he further investigated, it was safe to say a powerful discovery was made.
- Röntgen did not want any part of the profits or royal titles for the work he did, and did not apply for a patent for his most famous invention. Despite his advances, the critical acclaim, and success as a physicist, he lived a quiet life out of the social spotlight. He even donated the money he earned from his Nobel Prize to a university…and was said to have nearly been broke when he passed away.
- Röntgen was referred to as a “genius” as well as a “scatterbrain” by many of his colleagues and students (during his lectures, he jumped from concept to concept without clear teachings). As they say: genius often breeds insanity. Some of his most famous experiments, including the X-Ray, were done in secret with rarely any witnesses. The following weeks after he accidentally discovered the X-Ray, he ate and slept in his laboratory as he further investigated. He actually left little instruction of his discoveries and experiments and ordered that all of his scientific findings be destroyed upon his death.
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Nonetheless, his legacy lives on throughout the world of radiology. In fact, in many languages, instead of the term “X-ray“, Röntgen’s name is used to refer to radiology and its products.
I am truly grateful for the people who dedicate so much of their life towards amazing innovations such as the x-ray. If you would like to learn more about the x-ray machine, or need assistance in purchasing any medical equipment, give me a call anytime.