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Glasgow and Xrays

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Glasgow and Xrays


"Hi, my name is Kirsty Earley from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, and todayI want to talk to you about X-rays. 

X-radiation, better known as X-rays, is a type of energy released as waves, and it can be used clinically to create an image of the inside of a human body. This type of radiation was discovered by German physicist, Wilhelm Roentgen, in 1895. So before then, they had no way to look inside the human body non-invasively. That means if they wanted to see inside the body they had to cut it open. Roentgen discovered this X or "unknown" radiation by passing electricity through vacuum tube equipment. He was able to produce the first ever radiograph- a radiograph is a picture produced by radiation.

So how exactly does X-radiation work on the human body? X-rays are produced from an emitter and projected onto a piece of film. If a person stands in front of the emitter before the film the x-rays will then pass through their body. Creation of the final radiograph image is based on the calcium levels in different parts of the human body. So, for example, bones have high levels of calcium and will therefore absorb X-radiation and appear white on the final film. The rest of the x-radiation will just pass through onto the film and appear black.

So what on earth do x-rays have to do with Glasgow? Well, Glasgow is the home to the first ever radiology department that saw patients. This department was created by Dr John MacIntyre at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary in 1896, within the year of Roentgen discovering x-radiation. MacIntyre was a doctor and was a fellow of the College, but he was also a qualified electrical engineer, so he was perfect for undertaking this new imaging technique and creating a whole department on it. We have some examples of x-ray tubes which were from the Glasgow Royal Infirmary in our museum collection. They're almost completely made of glass, so they're very fragile. On World Radiography Day we thought it'd be good to tell you the history of x-rays and the role Glasgow played in getting them in hospitals.

Join me for these bitesize videos where we tell you stories of our heritage. We bring our heritage to you. Bye!"