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A look at the history of X-rays

The fascinating image above shows a double-focus X-ray tube from 1896. The tube used an alternating current, which accelerates electrons towards an aluminum plate, to produce x-rays at both ends. The unique history and significance of this object is described in a recent Wellcome Collection blog post.

The entry examines the history of X-rays from November 1895 onwards, when German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen snapped the first X-ray of his wife's hand to present day. William Birnie writes:

If Roentgen's semi-accidental discovery had not taken place, modern medicine would have been deprived in an unimaginable way. A book entitled X-Rays, Past and Present, which was published in 1927 and aimed to give the general reader a history of X-rays, makes an interesting point in its closing pages by stating: 'not the least important result of the development of X-rays has been that they have formed a common link between other branches of science that hitherto had drifted into something approaching independent existences.' X-rays, with the subsequent examination into their effect on physiological tissue, allowed the concept of our bodies being nothing but special differentiations of electrical charges to become much more tangible and appreciated than it had ever been before.

Photo by Wellcome Trust

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