Achievements of BIR

Important Achievements of the Institute (BIR)

Diploma in Medical Radiology

As a result of representation by the B.A.R.P. the University of Cambridge in June 1919 instituted a Diploma in Medical Radiology and Electrology (D.M.R.E.).  This Diploma was administered by a Committee of medical radiologists and electrologists to which the Institute elected representatives.  Courses of instruction for the Diploma were organised by the Committee and held annually at the Institute.  This Diploma lapsed in 1942 by which time other Diplomas had become established.

International Congress of Radiology

The Institute initiated and organised the first International Congress of Radiology, which was held in London in 1925.  At the second International Congress, which was held in Stockholm in 1928 the Institute had the privilege of presenting a Presidential badge and chain of office for the use in perpetuity of future Presidents, the names of whom would be engraved on the chain.

Radiation Protection Committee

The Institute was one of the founder bodies in 1921 of the British X-ray and Radium Protection Committee whose recommendations, the first to be formulated by any country for dealing with an acknowledged menace, met with wide approval and adoption in this country.  These recommendations were considered by the Second International Congress, which adopted them as international protection recommendations and set up an International Protection Committee. 

The first Chairman of the Committee was Sir Humphry Rolleston, who presided until 1944, and was succeeded by Dr. A. Barclay, and later by Sir Ernest Rock Carling.  Between 1921 and 1948 seven editions of the Recommendations were published, modifications and additions being incorporated as new considerations arose.

In 1952 it was realised that, with the vast extension of the field of work with ionizing radiations, the problem of protection had become too great to be dealt with adequately by the Committee.  It was decided, therefore, that this body should cease to function and the work was taken over by a statutory committee appointed under the Radioactive Substances Act.

So passed the first X-ray Protection Committee, through which Britain set the pattern for the world.


Measurement of x-radiation

Author: Bob Burns

In the years following the discovery of x-radiation by Rontgen in 1895 and its rapid introduction into medical practice for diagnostic purposes, the unintended effect on the human body prompted attempts to find whether it could be used to treat a range of diseases. Unfortunately, it was difficult to gain experience and compare clinical results because at that time there was no easy or accepted method of measuring the amount or intensity of x-radiation.

To address this problem, in 1913 the Rontgen Society appointed a "Committee on Rontgen Measurement and Dosage". Its work was interrupted by the war, but it published its findings in "Interim Report of the Committee on Standardisation of X-ray Dosage" (J. Rontgen Soc. 1915, Vol XI, 102-110}. In 1923 it was reconstituted as a joint committee with the Physical Society named the "British x-ray Units Committee". At the first International Congress of Radiology in 1925 the committee was given the task of setting up an "International X-ray Units Committee", which after several later changes of name became the "International Commission on Radiation Units and Measurements" (ICRU}.

Likewise, the British committee eventually became the "British Committee on Radiation Units and Measurements" (BCRU}, and came under the aegis of the British Institute of Radiology after the Rontgen Society was incorporated with the BIR in 1927. At that time, it participated in many international discussions resulting in ionization of air being accepted as the method of choice for measuring the effect of x-radiation, and national standards being set up to measure that quantity.

After World War II, the greatly increased use of radioactive materials and ionizing radiation led to the need for an authoritative body of experts who could be called upon at short notice to advise the UK Government on measuring the effects of radiation, particularly with regard to legislation. To meet this requirement, in 1966 the Government took over the organisation and funding of BCRU, enlarged it, and based it at the National Physical Laboratory. The BIR had representation on the committee and played an active part in discussions which by the 1980s led to inter­national agreement that absorbed dose should be used for measurement and reporting in radiotherapy, and the introduction of the special SI radiation units - gray, sievert and becquerel.

Collection of x-ray Tubes

The Institute owns a unique collection of historical X-ray tubes, at present housed in the galleries of the Science Museum at South Kensington.  It owns also an album of photographs and a number of lantern slides dealing with these historical X-ray tubes.

Radium Standards

An important paper on the measurement of radioactivity, was published in the Journal of the Rontgen Society in 1907, the writer, C.E.S. Phillips, was commissioned to prepare a set of radium standards, which he eventually completed and presented to the Rontgen Society.  These standards were passed in due course to the care of the Institute, and, during the war, were placed in the borehole at the Mount Vernon Hospital.  In 1953 they were in the custody of Dr L.H. Gray.

British Journal of Radiology

In May 1896 the first radiological journal in the world was published in London with the title of ‘The Archives of Clinical Skiagraphy’.  In 1897 its title was altered to ‘Archives of the Rontgen Ray, and in July of that year it was adopted as the official organ for publication of the transactions of the Rontgen Society.  In 1904 the association between and the Archives terminated and the Society initiated its own publication of the Journal of the Rontgen Society.

The ‘Archives of the Rontgen Ray continued publication and in 1915 became ‘The Archives of Radiology and Electrology.  In 1918 it was adopted as the official organ of the B.A.R.P. and in 1923 it became the property of that Association which in January 1924 further altered the title to ‘The British Journal of Radiology (B.I.R. Section)’.  At the same time the journal of the Rontgen Society was renamed ‘The British Journal of Radiology (Rontgen Society Section)’ and the two sections of the journal were published concurrently by the two bodies concerned until the end of 1927.  The two bodies having then amalgamated their journals became merged in January 1928 as ‘The British Journal of Radiology ’ in its present form.  The journal is published monthly by the Institute and copies were sent free to all members.  In present day it is available in electronic form.

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