Thursday, October 12, 2017

You probably never thought of a hobbyist market for x-ray machines

Couple of points.

For starters, wow! I knew people were way too nonchalant about the potential dangers of radiation in the latter part of the 19th and early 20th centuries, but wow!

Second (and, yes, I know I've been hitting this point a lot), it is almost impossible to imagine how amazing and world-changing the technological innovations of this period were. Adults who picked up this copy of Scientific American in 1896 would probably remember the first time they saw a light bulb or a telephone or a moving picture. While being born in a horse-and-buggy age is an overused cliché, it is also very difficult to avoid. For these people, the world was not only suddenly invaded by incredible machines, strange sights, and even new foods, it was also permeated by invisible rays that could actually show you the inside of your body.

1896 was also the year that a fellow named Marconi got a patent on one of his inventions, but that's a story for another time.


  1. Our local shoe store has an old X-ray machine from the 1920s, back when shoe stores used X-rays to see how your new shoes fit. It isn't working anymore which is just as well.

    Interestingly, people knew that X-rays could be bad news. Supposedly, some conference on X-rays was held in the 1900s and the big issue was what to serve at the banquet. So many X-ray researchers were down a few fingers or a hand, that they wanted to serve something simple to eat with one working hand and perhaps a few fingers.

    1. I remember a working one in Ionia Michigan back in the 1950's. Fascinating for a small boy getting new shoes.

      IIRC, I had to be dragged away from it.