Alternative Use of X-rays in the Past (“X-ray Frenzy”) and How Far We've Come

George Tsoukatos, BPS, RT(R)*

*Medical Imaging Consultant, Radiology Support Services, Germantown, NY


Address correspondence to: George Tsoukatos, BPS, RT(R), Radiology Support Services, PO Box 215, Germantown, NY 12526. Email:

Disclosure statement: The author reports having no significant financial or advisory relationships with corporate organizations related to this activity.

This paper is dedicated to the memory of the heroic pioneers in radiography who gave life and limb in order for future generations to have a safe and successful application of X-rays in medicine. Their sacrifice and deeds is immortal.



The now familiar hazards of ionizing radiation had a long path to becoming publicly recognized and to the systems developed that are currently in place to manage them. X-rays have become such a routine part of everyday life that few of us consider the path this "amazing invisible light" has taken since its origin. How were physicians and operators in the early development of this exciting technology expected to react to a discovery that could be duplicated easily by almost anyone with a basic understanding of electrical engineering? What's more, entrepreneurs of that era routinely used the x-ray for nonmedical applications. This article discusses the timeline of the x-ray, from early discovery and use/misuse, to it's clinical application today in careful, monitored procedures. We will begin with a historical account of the early years following the discovery of the x-ray as well as nonmedical applications of this wondrous discovery leading up a period of "x-ray frenzy." We then review the safety practices, protocols, and guidelines for limiting radiation exposure to patients and operators, in place today, and which were developed as our understanding of the many inherent dangers of the misuse of this technology has evolved. 

Join or Log In to view the full content