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01/06/2012

By | The Researcher’s View

In our latest posting from the Science Club, Rebekah and friends report on a day in the Wellcome exploring X-rays.

On Wednesday 18 April we accompanied some of the year nine students on a trip to the Wellcome Collection.  We were led to the Wellcome Library and directed to a room with a double glass door and into a place which blocked out the environment of the library and enclosed us in peace and serenity.

We had the opportunity to look at artefacts and archives which the public did not have access to.  The artefacts were handled carefully and we got a chance to analyse them and see them in detail. 

X-ray of the bones of a hand with a ring on one finge. Wellcome Images No. V0029523.

X-ray of the bones of a hand with a ring on one finge. Wellcome Images No. V0029523.

Our individual research was about the history of X-rays.  We got a chance to look at German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen’s life and the first X-ray, which was created by him.

On 8 November 1895, he was believed to be experimenting with Crooke’s vacuum tube equipment.  When the cathode ray beam he generated hit the interior wall of the vacuum tube, he noticed an image on a screen nearby.  The rays generated by the tube could penetrate many kinds of matter.

After he had discovered this Röntgen took the first X-ray. The hand in the X-ray belonged to Anna Bertha, his wife. The X-ray clearly showed the bones in her hand, and the black blob on the fourth finger is a gold ring which absorbs the X-ray. Some believe it’s her wedding ring.

The photograph was then shown to the general public. Röntgen named his invention X-radiation, now known as the X-ray.  It was later reported that his wife was not very impressed with the photography.

Röntgen’s findings became the beginning of a revolutionary change in our understanding of human anatomy.  His invention of the X-ray was a huge step forward in the history of medicine.  Inner parts of the body can now be made visible without the need to cut flesh open.

We would like to thank the women who took the time to educate us on the history of medicine.  [You’re welcome]

Posted on behalf of Rebekah and friends

Image: Print from early radiograph (X-ray photograph), possibly showing the hand of Röntgen’s wife, 22 December 1895 (Wellcome Library no.32971i)

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