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Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen
(1845-1923)
A German physics professor

The 3rd Century of Imaging Is Just Beginning

by Barbara Kram , Editor
As this year draws to a close, the third century of medical imaging technology is just beginning. It all began in 1895 with German physics professor Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen's discovery that X-rays could produce an image of the human skeleton. The first anatomical image ever taken was of his wife's hand.

The technology caught on immediately as physicians soon figured that X-rays might be useful for treatment as well as diagnosis. As early as 1896, researchers noted that X-rays had a palliative effect on cancer.

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Only a few years later, the use of X-rays in medical diagnosis was widespread. Radiographs of common diseases were taken and angiographs illuminated arteries and blood vessels with radio-opaque substances (post-mortem).

Lack of awareness of the dangers of radiation exposure led to grave illness and death for many early researchers. However, like the science itself, protection techniques and technologies also advanced over time.


Roentgen in an historic photo
operating one of his early X-ray machines


By the early 19th century, radiology became a medical specialty. The American Roentgen Ray Society was founded in 1900.

This year marks the 110th anniversary of the discovery that launched the field of radiology. As reported in DOTmed news another passage took place in 2005 of significance to the field when nuclear medicine pioneer Hal O. Anger died on October 31. His gamma camera, developed in the 1950s, and other inventions, brought diagnostic techniques into ubiquitous use. His instruments are still common today, diagnosing cancer, metabolic disorders, and heart disease, according to the Society of Nuclear Medicine.

Fast forward to RSNA 2005 with a showcase of extraordinary advances in all specialties of medical imaging extending from X-ray to PET, CT, MRI and ultrasound. It's clear that the next century will bring as much revolution to the field of medicine as the last 110 years.

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