1920s amalgamation

The Amalgamation of the Röntgen Society and the British Institute of Radiology

The origins of the BIR can be traced back to a first meeting held on 2 April 1897 to form "The X-ray Society". The first general meeting of the new society, now called "The Röntgen Society" in honour of Wilhelm Röntgen, was held on 3 June 1897.

The Amalgamation of the Röntgen Society and the British Institute of Radiology in 1927 created the modern British Institute of Radiology  and  many had worked hard for a long time to enable this merger to come about.

The first section of this first issue of the New Series of the British Journal of Radiology gives an account of the Inaugural Meeting which was held at the Central Hall in Westminster on November 17th and 18th 1927. The Presidential Address (Rolleston BJR 1928; 1(1): 1-7) was given by Sir Humphrey Rolleston, who was Professor of Physics at the University of Cambridge, and is most interesting,  giving an account of the events leading up to the amalgamation of the Röntgen Society and the old British Institute of Radiology.

The inaugural meeting consisted of a physics meeting, a medical meeting, an exhibition of X-ray and electro-medical apparatus and of course an inaugural dinner and all are recounted in detail below (BJR 1928; 1(1); 7-19).

The physics meeting (chaired by the Nobel Laureate Sir W. Bragg).  The session was divided into X-ray and radium protection and X-ray Measurement. The section on X-ray and radium protection is valuable. There was an interesting paper by Dr GWC Kaye who said that the Protection Committee had been founded in 1921 and that in many countries “Very largely the recommendations worked out in England had been adopted.” In 1921 there was no generally accepted standard of X-ray intensity. Dr Kaye worked at the National Physical Laboratory and “During the last few years hundreds of hospitals had been tested by the National Physical Laboratory, whose reports had frequently been instrumental in assisting the radiologist to obtain a new equipment or added protection.” Dr Kaye also stressed the point that the X-ray department should be as bright and cheerful as any hospital ward in its scheme of decoration.” 

Of note in the X-ray measurement session is the mention of a “Mr Mayneord” speaking on the use of a pastille dose in X-ray measurement in radiotherapy. Professor Valentine Mayneord, subsequently of the Royal Marsden Hospital was probably the most influential medical physicist on the 20th Century. His talk was followed by Major C E S Phillips who was a pioneer medical physicist and was also from the Royal Marsden Hospital.


The Medical Meeting (chaired by Sir Humphrey Rolleston)

There were four speakers and the accounts of their talks are worth reading. All deal to some degree with the use of contrast media:

Dr R A Gibbons spoke about the use of contrast media in gynaecology to diagnose diseases of the fallopian tubes in infertility. More controversially he spoke about the use of X-rays for sterilisation of women and commented, “The sterilisation of the unfit was becoming of practical international importance.”

Dr L S T Burrell spoke on the use of Lipiodol for the diagnosis of bronchiectasis by bronchography. This was a hot topic since the well-known book by JA Sicard and J Forestier from Paris on diagnosis and treatment with Lipiodol was published that year. 

Sir John Thompson Walker described the use of contrast media in the renal tract. The technique was that of retrograde pyelography in this period before the development of intravenous pyelography.

Sir James Purves Stuart spoke on the use of contrast media in the central nervous system and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the contrast media that were then available.



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