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The X-Ray is one of the most important medical innovations of the last century. Viewing the inner workings of our body would, quite simply, not be possible without an x-ray.

Then electromagnetic spectrum covers both light and radio waves. X-rays are considered to use short wavelength and electromagnetic waves, penetrating the exterior of our bodies and viewing tissues, muscles and organs.

The Discovery of X-Rays

Professor Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen of Wuerzburg University is credited with discovering the modern x-ray machine. Working in his laboratory he discovered that when using a cathode ray tube crystals emit fluorescent glows. The tube featured a glass bulb containing positive and negative electrodes. With the application of high voltage and a vacuum that sucked out the air, Professor Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen was able to simulate our modern understanding of an x-ray.

In 1895 Professor Roentgen hypothesised that the x-ray had the capacity to pass through human tissue, however he also believed that the technology would be unable to pass through metal or steel.

Industrial to Medical X-rays

The first x-rays were used primarily for industrial applications. Professor Roentgen created an x-ray image, called a radiograph, from a box that was weighed down. This captivated fellow scientists who pretty soon created the very first medical radiographs. The calcium in bones absorbs radiography more thoroughly. This is the reason that bones appear white on the x-ray. Soft tissues are only able to absorb a small amount of radiation – hence the reasons why they are aren’t as clearly outlined.

In 1913 William Coolidge designed an x-ray machine which featured a tungsten filament. This high vacuum heated tube is today considered to be the backbone of contemporary x-ray machines. The initial version operated to 100,000 volts of energy. In 1922 industrial x-rays were increased in power to 200,000 volts. In 1931 the General Electric Company designed an x-ray generator accommodating one million volts.

Today medical practitioners use x-ray machines to glimpse internal portions of the human body. Our understanding of how radiation affects the human body has greatly enhanced over recent times. This has enabled us to design and develop procedures with increased accuracy.

X-rays, and our understanding of how radiation works, has evolved a great deal over the last century. Today they’re a vital component to accurately diagnosing a wealth of medical conditions.

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