Since the days of the old darkroom in the 17th century and the daguerreotype and calotype of the 19th century, until the industrial production of photographic plates and the invention of the portable first camera with roll of photos, improvements in procedures that precede were introduced to contemporary photography.

The 19th century was characterized by the interest in the study of the image acquisition and improvement in physical and chemical procedures to achieve this. As it happened with photography, image with x-ray production was the result of the combination of different discoveries that have been perfected over time, as well as the development of new technologies, which has finally led to the scanned images.

New photography

In 1895, the physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, studied cathode rays and x-rays discovered. He noted that it is locking radiation capable of traversing different materials and, to prove it, it was worth of photographic plates.

It was then that he made the first human x-ray, with the hand of his wife as a model, and thus marking the start of the incorporation of various techniques of physics to medical science for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Thanks to this important discovery, the scientist received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901.

Wilhelm ConradRöntgen discovered in 1995 rays X. source:

First x-ray, by Wilhelm ConradRöntgen. Source:

For that time, photography, was already quite developed since in 1888 is launched to the market the first camera with rolls of 100 photos, so the discovery of Röntgen was seen as a “new photography”.

First Kodak camera, with rolls of 100 photos. Source:

Röntgen was an amateur photographer and for that reason had Instagram Printer Photo Booth in his laboratory, which helped him in his experiments with radiation. But it wasn’t the only radiologist fond of photography.

In 1914 the British radiologist John Hall-Edwards, pioneered the clinical use of x-rays in the United Kingdom, made reproductions of images with x-rays, technical that even today used it artists of the image as Nick Veasey. And it is that, at that time, the production of good quality radiographs had a directly proportional relationship to the photographic knowledge of the radiographer.

“The Radiography of flowers”, 1914.Imagen of John Hall – Edwards obtained with x-ray British Institute of Radiology. Source:

20th century: digital image plates

The original photographic plates used on radiographs were those designed for ordinary photography and the results were not satisfactory, so that new materials and photosensitive chemicals were introduced to improve the image.

Like the old photograph, x-ray images passed through use of plates of glass, paper and film, though at a later date.

In terms of chemical processes, Thomas Edison demonstrated that the crystallized calcium tungstate gave better results than the platinocyanide of barium discovered by Röntgen as fluorescent compound to produce x-rays.

Thomas Edison. Source:

In 1914, when the first world war, broke out grew demand plates for x-ray, so it began to market an adaptation of the basis of cellulose nitrate of photographic, emulsion coated on one side only, films that had greater sensitivity than any plate made so far.

In terms of what was the best support, in those days being discussed about whether the film is crinkled and did lose the sharpness of the image, or if the glass plates had the disadvantage of easily break.However, it was not until 1918 when it launched to the market a film emulsion-coated on both sides: was so successful, that in 1930 there was no radiologist able to use plates, but the cellulose nitrate used in the manufacture of films was highly flammable, so in later years, he was replaced by cellulose acetate.

In a next installment I will discuss more about the innovations that were introduced during the twentieth century in the field of the photographic image and the radiological image, until the emergence of the digital image.

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