Section I. PRE X-RAY DISCOVERIES
In order to have a sense of perspective about where the field of radiography is
going today, it is helpful to examine how far it has come along since the early days of its
inception. To that end, this lesson provides a brief history of radiography. Covered in
this lesson are significant pre-xray discoveries, pioneering individuals and the dates of
milestone discoveries or inventions. Also discussed are popular misconceptions about
the New Photography, and the earliest practical applications of x-rays.
WILLIAM GILBERT (1600's)
a. First Developments of the 1600s. Logically speaking, the history of x-rays
begins with some of the events and theoretical discoveries that prepared the way for the
development of the more complex x-ray machines. The history of radiography begins
in the early 1600's, with the work of an English physician who was a member of the
court of Queen Elizabeth I. Fascinated by the similarities and differences between
magnetism and electricity, William Gilbert conducted some experiments to compare the
two phenomena. At the outset, he had no real idea as to how the two phenomena
might be related.
b. Electricity, the Attraction Between Rubbed Objects. It was Gilbert who coined
the term electricity, an anglicized version of the Greek word for amber (elektron).
Gilbert used the term electricity to describe the attraction between rubbed amber and
almost any lighter object.
OTTO VAN GUERICKE (1646)
In 1646, Otto Van Guericke invented an air pump that was capable of removing
air from a vessel or tube. He also made a crude electrical machine, known as a sulphur
ball that could be whirled on bearings and rubbed with the hands to produce static
CHARLES DU FAY (1733)
In 1733, the French Scientist, Charles Francois Du Fay, showed that there
seemed to be two distinct kinds of electricity, which he named vitreous and resinous,
and that objects deemed to fall into one or the other category. Du Fay discovered that
objects charged with the so-called vitreous electricity repelled other objects with the
same charged, but attracted those with the so-called resinous charge.