Archive for March 2015

History of Radiology

The discovery of x-ray technology in the late 19th century was the beginning of a transformation in the way physicians diagnose and treat diseases. Learn more about the history of medical imaging technology and the role radiology has played in 20th and 21st century medicine.


X-rays were first discovered in 1895 by German physicist William Roentgen, who stumbled upon what he termed “x radiation” while conducting experiments in a laboratory at the University of Wrzburg. Roentgen’s experiments revealed that x radiation could be used to penetrate materials such as metal, wood, paper, and even living tissues. This led to the development of x-rays, which involved the transfer of these images to photographic plates.

The discovery of “x radiation”, or x-rays, heralded in a new age of medicine, giving physicians a non-invasive tool to see inside the body and clearly identify disease and other medical abnormalities.

Ultrasound Imaging

The history of ultrasound imaging can be traced to the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. The first patent for underwater ultrasound echoing was filed just one month after the Titanic crashed into an underwater iceberg.

During World War I, ultrasound underwater detection systems were developed specifically to aid in the navigation of underwater submarines. Ultrasound technology was in great demand, particularly to detect German submarines at sea. The first successful medical applications for ultrasound technology were in the fields of gynecology and obstetrics. By the 1950’s, physicians were utilizing ultrasound systems to identify ovarian cysts and fibroid tumors, and by the 1960’s physicians were using portable handheld scanners to visualize a fetus in its mother’s womb.

CT Scan

CT scanning technology, or computer tomography scanning, was developed in 1972. The first clinical applications for CT scans came in 1975; the first scanning machines were developed only for head scans. Full body scanning machines were introduced in 1976.
The original CT scan machines were designed to allow physicians to view cross-sectional images by combining different x-rays of the same area taken from different angles. This process initially required hours of scanning and days spent reconstructing a single cross-section image. The latest CT scanners reconstruct images from millions of data points in less than a second.