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The History Of The X Rays Essay

1035 words - 5 pages

During the cold winter of 1895, a German scientist by the name of Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen was working with a cathode-ray tube when he noticed nearby crystals were glowing. When Roentgen reached for the crystals he was amazed when the shadow cast on the crystal was not of his whole hand, but just his bones. Roentgen covered the tube with heavy black paper and saw that the crystals still glowed and the shadow of his hand bones still shown through, he then determined that a new ray was being emitted that could penetrate through thick materials. (1.) He later found that the rays could pass through most anything, but would cast a shadow of solid objects; these shadows could then be captured on film. Among the solid objects Roentgen shot with these rays was human tissue, the rays would penetrate the tissue, but the bones would cast a shadow, which could then be caught on film. One of Roentgen’s first experiments with X-rays was on his wife’s hand where, on the film, you could see her hand bones and her wedding ring. (1.) While the discovery of x-rays was a huge advancement in medical technology, they were not used in the medical field at first. Instead the mystical invisible rays that could penetrate solid objects were used in the industrial field.

However, once the public caught wind of these magic rays, the x-rays popularity skyrocketed. Within 6 months after the announcement of the discovery of x-rays the United States and Europe had built many medical x-ray machines to aid in surgery, and even x-ray machines for the battle field, in which field medics would use the rays to locate bullets in the bodies of wounded soldiers. (1.) While the x-rays gained popularity in the minds of the people of the world, they did not sell well. Before 1913 all x-ray tubes were not only expensive, but easily broken. The amount of energy it took to produce the x-ray picture usually caused the x-ray tube to break down, in turn making it no longer operational. (2.) A man named William David Coolidge solved this debacle by creating the vacuum sealed Coolidge Tube, which not only allowed an increase in power through the tube that allowed better pictures, but it also permitted more stability in the x-ray tubes, thus giving them a longer working lifespan. The Coolidge tube could operate to energies up to 100,000 volts. General Electric went on to make x-ray tubes capable of operating at energies up to 1,000,000 volts, which gave the x-ray technology enough stability to become industrialized and mass produced.

With this stability and mass production, x-rays machines became very common everywhere. From large factories, to doctors offices, all the way to the corner store of small towns, where children and adults alike could insert a coin into a machine and view the bones in their feet. (3.) Because of their relative adolescences in the world, not much was known about x-rays or their effects on the human body. The first theories...

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