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From the Rush Archives: International Day of Radiology (Nov. 8) and Rush's First X-Ray Machines and CT Scanner

by Nathalie Wheaton on 2020-11-05T08:00:00-06:00 in Archives, History | 0 Comments

-Post assisted by Rush Archives Work Study Student Kirsten Petrarca, Doctoral Student in Audiology, Rush University.

Today is the International Day of Radiology, an annual event promoting the role of medical imaging in modern healthcare.

This year, 2020, marks the 125th anniversary of the discovery of x-rays! X-rays were discovered, November 8th, 1895, by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, a professor of physics at the University of Würzburg in Germany.

So today, we'll reflect on Rush's first X-ray machines, 1898, and further advances in radiology at Rush in the 1970s.

Rush's First X-Ray Machine, 1898:

Presbyterian Hospital's first x-ray machine, 1898Rush's historic Presbyterian Hospital* acquired its first x-ray machine in 1898. Within a few years, it had become an important part of the hospital's diagnostic and therapeutic offerings for patients.

CAPTION: Presbyterian Hospital's First X-Ray Machine, 1898. Subject Photo Collection, P3763.

The 1904 Annual Report of Presbyterian Hospital [1] stated:

"...In the X-ray department 542 skiographs were taken, of which 98 were free and 444 paid; 1,759 treatments were given, of which 590 were free and 1,169 paid. In many cases, however, the amount paid did not cover the actual expense of the skiograph or treatment. This work is far in advance of any previous year, and as we now have the most complete X-ray laboratory in the West we feel sure that the work in this department will increase."

The 1904 Annual Report also features further images of the hospital's X-ray equipment:

Presbyterian Hospital Annual Report, 1904, X-ray OutfitPresbyterian Hospital, 1904 Annual Report, X-ray CoilCAPTION: 12-Inch Roentgen X-Ray Outfit. Presbyterian Hospital Annual Report, 1904.

A sampling of articles written by Rush Medical College faculty and Presbyterian Hospital staff provides an overview of the advances in research into the use of x-rays for various conditions.

Surgeon Arthur Dean Bevan, MD, covered a wide range of research topics during his many decades at Rush and Presbyterian, including the following:

  • “Diagnosis of Stone in the Kidney by the X-Ray, and its Treatment,” March 1901.
  • “The X-Ray as a Therapeutic Agent,” 2 January 1904.
  • “Coley’s Toxins and the Use of the X-ray in the Treatment of Sarcoma; Sarcoma of the Ilium; Remarks on X-ray Burns,” 1917.
  • “X-Ray Burns; Acute Appendicitis, Carcinoma of the Stomach; Two Cases of Mediastinal Tumor which Proved to be Substernal Thyroid Enlargements” 1921.
  • “Use of x-Ray in Papillary Cystadenocarcinoma of the Ovary,” 1933.

Renowned pathologist Ludvig Hektoen, MD, also on faculty at Rush and on the Presbyterian staff, showed another research interest in the use of x-rays in his article, “The Influence of the X-Ray on the Production of Antibodies,” 1915.

CAPTION: 22-Inch X-Ray Coil used in Electrical and Photographic Laboratory. Presbyterian Hospital Annual Report, 1904.

Many advances have been made since those early years of discovery.

Huckman and Thatcher, September 1975Rush's First CT Scanner:

Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center* was one of the first institutions in the country to obtain CT scanning technology. It purchased the third EMI head scanning unit in the country in 1973, and one of the first CT body scanners in the country in 1976, about the same time a second head scanner was acquired. From there, rapid developments in equipments' resolution and speed led to advances in diagnoses and more comfortable processes for patients.

In September 1975, the Rt. Hon. Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, MP, leader of Britain's Conservative Party, visited the Medical Center to view firsthand the EMI brain scanner. 

CAPTION: Thatcher gets a close-up look from Michael Huckman, MD, director of the section on neuroradiology. From Rush's NewsRounds, December 1975. [3]

To learn more about the history of Rush's radiology and nuclear medicine departments, the Rush Archives suggests the following:

  • The Winter 1982-1983 issue of Rush's The Magazine includes a piece entitled, "Imaging Techniques," by Janis Long Harris [2], that covers advances in radiological techniques and treatments at Rush.
  • The Rush Archives holds a history of Rush's radiology and nuclear medicine departments written by Rush's Richard E. Buenger, MD, chairman of diagnostic radiology, covering the years 1898-1994. The history includes information on equipment and key people in the history of Rush's radiology work.

*Presbyterian Hospital and St. Luke's Hospital merged in 1956, to become Presbyterian-St. Luke's Hospital. Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital merged with the newly reorganized Rush Medical College in 1969, to become Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center (RPSLMC). RPSLMC was renamed Rush University Medical Center in 2003, to better reflect its status as a leading academic research center. 

Want to learn more about the history of Rush or the Rush Archives collections? Explore the Rush Archives website, or contact the archivist, Nathalie Wheaton, MSLS. Follow us on Twitter! @RushArchives

All documents and photographs belong to the records collections of Rush University Medical Center Archives, Chicago, Ill. Contact the archivist for permissions and full citations.







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