Overview of the History of X-Ray Technology


Many patients and medical professionals take X-ray technology for granted today. This technology has been around for more than a century. It’s used in a host of industries, too, so it’s easy to understand why many people simply don’t give it much thought.

While X-ray technology is certainly older than more recent technological advancements that entertain and unite people located all over the world, it’s the basis for several key advancements that have been made in medical technology over the years. As an X-ray technician, it’s critical to familiarize yourself with the significant moments in the history of X-ray technology. It’s only by knowing the background of this vital technology that you can recognize its continued potential for use in even more advanced medical applications.

Snapshots of Key Moments in the Evolution of X-Ray Technology

Even though X-ray technology is pretty remarkable in its own right, it has been used as the foundation for various inventions that have improved the medical care that’s available in modernized countries. Here are brief descriptions of some of the significant moments in the history of X-ray technology and some of the equipment that’s been developed as the result of this pre-existing technology:

  • 1895: Wilhelm Roentgen uncovered X-radiation, or Roentgen rays, which become widely known as “X-rays.” These invisible rays penetrated things humans cannot see beyond or through, such as skin. Roentgen takes the world’s first X-ray, which is an image of his spouse’s left hand.
  • 1896: While many viewed X-ray images as a novelty, at first, physicians across the globe were using them the year after Roentgen took the first X-ray image in history. In 1896, Dr. Edwin Frost became the first physician in the United States to use X-rays to view the inside of a human body. In the same year, Emil Grubbe experienced success with using X-rays to treat breast cancer, which inspired the use of radiotherapy as a cancer treatment. Dr. D.W. Gage reported that being exposed to X-rays can cause serious side effects, which include hair loss and lesions.
  • 1946: Working independently of each other, Edward Purcell and Felix Bloch uncover nuclear magnetic resonance, or NMR.
  • 1955: Scottish doctor, Ian Donald, looked into using ultrasound to diagnose gynecology patients.
  • 1957: Basil Hirschowitz and some of his peers patented the world’s first fiber-optic, somewhat flexible gastroscope.
  • 1958: Ian Donald published his work on using ultrasound as a diagnostic tool and then focused on its application in obstetrics and monitoring the growth of fetuses throughout pregnancy.
  • 1967: Godfrey Hounsfield developed the concept of computed tomography, or CT scans.
  • 1971: On October 1, 1971, the world’s first brain CT scan was performed on an actual patient.
  • 1973: Paul Lauterbur created the first-ever magnetic resonance image, or MRI.
  • 1974: The positron emission tomography camera, or PET camera, was created by Michael Phelps.
  • 1977: The first MRI scan is completed using an MRI machine made by three American doctors.
  • 1980s: Beginning in the early part of the decade, many hospitals started installing MRI machines.
  • 1990s: Using ultrasound to monitor a baby’s development during pregnancy became standard procedure in many locations.

In your role as an X-ray technician, you have the opportunity to change lives just like the individuals who’ve made advancements based on X-ray technology have over the years. Your skills can help doctors diagnose problems early and save lives as a result. Being on the front lines and having an intimate knowledge of X-ray technology, you also have the chance to conceive new ways this technology can be used to provide even better medical care.

When Wilhelm Roentgen was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering X-rays in 1901, he said he didn’t think — he investigated. Start investigating how the technology you use every day can be used in new applications today.