The History Of X-Rays

Chances are you’ve had or will have an x-ray at some point in your life. Today, x-rays are a common part of our everyday lives, whether it’s in diagnosing illnesses or checking bags at the airport. But it wasn’t always like that! X-rays have only been around a couple of hundred years. Below, we will discuss the history of x-rays including how they were discovered, who discovered them, what they were used for throughout history, and how they have evolved to the x-rays we know today.

X-Ray History

X-rays were discovered in 1895 by Rector Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen, a professor in Germany. He was working with positive and negative electrodes in a tube when he noticed that when the air in the tube was removed and high voltage added, the tube produced a noticeable glow. He concluded that a new type of ray was being emitted from the tube that could pass through heavy materials.

Roentgen’s Discovery

X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation, similar to light rays; however, x-rays have higher energy and can pass through most objects. Rontgen conducted additional experiments after his initial discovery to more fully understand how this new ray behaved. He learned that x-rays penetrate human flesh but not denser things including bone or metals, and also that they are able to be photographed.

What were X-rays used for?

Within a year of Roentgen’s discovery, doctors in Europe and the United States were using x-rays to identify issues and foreign objects in the body including gunshot wounds, bone breaks or fractures, and objects that may have been accidentally ingested. X-rays were even used in the Balkan War on the battlefield to detect bullets and other injuries inside soldiers. Roentgen won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1901 for discovering the x-ray. After 1912, x-rays began being used in other industries beyond medicine and dentistry such as aerospace and manufacturing.

X-Rays and Radiation

Scientists quickly realized the benefits of x-rays, but were unfortunately less swift to understand the effects of radiation exposure caused by x-rays. Researchers and those in the medical field initially believed that x-rays passed through the human body without risk to human health; however, they eventually reported issues of burns and damage to patients’ skin after extended x-ray exposure. Still it wasn’t until the 1950s that radiation from x-rays was taken more seriously. Now there are many regulations in place to control and minimize the amount of radiation that patients are exposed to when getting an x-ray, so there’s very little risk of ever seeing any damage.

How are X-rays used today?

Today, in addition to added safety precautions, x-rays have evolved outside of just medical uses. X-rays are used at airports, in space exploration, to find archeological artifacts, and much more. X-rays are often our first line of defense in figuring out what’s really going on in the body. X-ray technology can also be used as a treatment for cancer, using radiation therapy.

X-rays have come a long way since when they were first discovered, especially when it comes to understanding the effects of radiation and how to keep people safe during their x-rays. If you’re looking for an X-ray in Manhattan, schedule an appointment with Rosetta Radiology today!