[ RadSafe ] Early X-Ray Workers

Joseph Shonka jjshonka at shonka.com
Fri Mar 27 09:44:26 CDT 2020

With quarantine issues for coronavirus, I watched a show on BritBox
"Casualty 1900s: London Hospital".  It was very moving.
It is based on real-life case notes, autopsy records and diaries from the
London Hospital, in the East End's Whitechapel.
The story line about radiation is in the first episode. Features Ernest
Wilson, one of the “Radiation Martyrs”
Then: X-ray radiation allowed doctors to take pictures of the bones inside
the body, but it was not understood.
All the radiologists at The London Hospital in 1907 died from exposure to
radiation and they were named the "X-ray martyrs".
Ernest Wilson, a radiologist featured in the series, regularly put his hand
underneath the X-ray plate while he took the X-ray and gradually lost his

I later googled "X-ray martyrs" and found wikipedia has a web page about a
monument to them. 359 people from 15 nations.

Most descriptions in the literature and lectures I recall mention
"injuries" among early practitioners, not death.
For example, Number 23 1995 Los Alamos Science is a good issue on
"Radiation and Risk—A Hard Look at the Data" and shows a photo of one hand
with the description:

"It was common for the hands of the early radiologists to receive
high radiation doses. The loss of fingers, as shown in the photograph
above, was *sometimes *the result. Such conditions are ultimately caused by
outright killing of many cells. In the case above, dermal basal cells and
blood vessels were critically injured in the fingers, scar tissue probably
plugged the blood vessels and stopped the flow of blood. The loss of blood
supply ultimately led to the death of tissue in the fingers and the loss of
those extremities."

It passed another evening on  quarantine here, and I found it interesting.
I never realized the extent of death among early practitioners in radiation

I don't know if my virus checker is updated for coronavirus, so wash your
hands after reading this email.

Joseph J. Shonka, Ph.D.
Shonka Research Associates, Inc.
119 Ridgemore Circle
Toccoa, GA 30577

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