1950s radiography

Apparatus for diagnostic radiography

Horizontal body section radiography

JJ Stevenson from the Royal Cancer Hospital reviewed body section radiography in June 1950 (Stevenson BJR 1950; 23(270): 319-334). The technique of plain tomography had been invented in the 1920s. EW Twining from Manchester developed a simple tomographic attachment (Twining BJR 1937; 10(112): 332-347) in which the patient remained still and the tube and film moved. One of Vallebona’s techniques was to keep the tube stationary and move the patient and film. The problem could be solved by a variety of methods and in 1937 William Watson built has apparatus in which the patient was upright and rotated. The images obtained were axial tomograms and are beautifully illustrated in this article.

 Tomography using Potter-Bucky Couch

Image source: wining BJR 1937; 10(112): 332-347


Film processing

An automatic film processor was described by TH Hills from Guy’s Hospital in March 1951 (Hills BJR 1951; 24(279): 164-166). There is a diagram of the apparatus. The first automatic film processors simulated the traditional technique of wet manual processing with the films being carried along and sequentially lowered into baths of developer, fixative and washing using pneumatic lifting gear. The later film processors used a roller system.


Image intensification 

MC Teves from Eindhoven described a simple image intensifier tube in April 1955 (Teves BJR 1955; 28(328): 216-217) with a subsequent paper by J Feddema also from Eindhoven discussing cineradiography (Feddema BJR 1955; 28(328): 217-220). The final image could be viewed using a microscope.  The advantages obtained were in a significant increase in brightness of the image (although contrast was not increased) and the quantity of X-rays used could be reduced resulting in a reduction in patient dose. The image intensifier was revolutionary and was demonstrated by TVL Critchlow from London in October 1956 with elegant swallowing studies (Critchlow BJR 1956; 29(346): 546-556).


Image source: Critchlow BJR 1956; 29(346): 546-556

WJ Osterkamp described an improved image intensifier for cineradiography in September 1958 (Osterkamp BJR 1958; 31(369): 507-510). The apparatus was bulky but effective. The unit as illustrated was used by Professor R Janker in Bonn. 

The logical extension of the image intensifier was not to view the output of the intensifier with a mirror or binoculars but to view the output with a television camera tube and view the results on a monitor and this was discussed by GA Hay from Leeds in November 1958 (Hay BJR 1958; 31(371): 611-618). The currently available television camera tubes were not ideal but that the image orthicon was acceptable and television pick-up tubes were discussed by GB Banks (Banks BJR 1958; 31(371): 619-625).

The introduction of image intensification profoundly changed the practice of radiology. No longer did radiologists have to wear red goggles to dark adapt their eyesight but the lights could be on and radiologists could now see clearly what they were doing.



The technique for xeroradiography, and the apparatus needed, were described in October 1955 by WD Oliphant from Edinburgh (Oliphant BJR 1955; 28(334): 543-544) and TH Hills and RW Stanford from Guy’s Hospitals (Hills, Stanford and Moore BJR 1955; 28(334): 545-551). Xeroradiography was of particular value in the radiography of soft tissues.


Image source: Hills, Stanford and Moore BJR 1955; 28(334): 545-551

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