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Sat Dec 17 10:13:44 CST 2011

The X-ray machine *was exhibited *for the first time on this date in 1896.
Heinrich Joseph Hoffmans, a Dutch headmaster and physicist, developed the
machine just a month after Wilhelm R=F6ntgen had discovered (and named)
X-rays in Germany. An X-ray machine could be constructed out of materials
common to most science labs: iron rods, a glass plate, a battery, electric
wire, and a glass vacuum bulb. Hoffmans built his out of spare parts in his

The quality of the images in 1896 was pretty impressive, but they came at a
cost. Exposure time was about 90 minutes, and the total dose of radiation
was 1,500 times greater than what is used today. Subjects and experimenters
received radiation burns, suffered eye problems, lost their hair, and
developed cancer. Many people ended up having to amputate the hands that
had been X-rayed. Hoffmans' original machine quickly became obsolete, and
was abandoned on a shelf in a warehouse in Maastricht until a documentary
film crew discovered it in 2010. Dr. Gerrit Kemerink, of the Maastricht
University Medical Center, put Hoffmans' machine to the test, and was able
to produce an image of a cadaver hand on the 115-year-old machine. Kemerink
said, "Our experience with this machine, which had a buzzing interruptor,
crackling lightning within a spark gap, and a greenish light flashing in a
tube, which spread the smell of ozone and which revealed internal
structures in the human body was, even today, little less than magical."

Susan Gawarecki

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