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X-Ray Movies

Excerpt from article in TIME Magazine (1936)

Still from X-ray movie, shows heart, ribcage and spine with view between frontal and lateral.
Still from X-ray Movie made by Dr. Janker, Germany, c.1937. (source)

… at the 37th annual meeting of the American Roentgen Ray Society in Cleveland last week …

Reported was the successful making of x-ray moving pictures with a home camera and 16-mm. film. Drs. William Holmes Stewart, William Joseph Hoffman, and Francis Henshall Ghiselin developed the technique at Manhattan’s Lenox Hill Hospital. The heart of the problem was to get a sharp, clear x-ray image on a fluoroscopic screen. The sharpness of the image depended on 1) the brightness of fluorescent material in the screen and 2) the length of time a patient may be subjected to x-ray transillumination. The invention in England of a zinc sulphide preparation which gave a bright blue image under x-rays and a cyanide preparation which gave a brilliant greenish yellow image solved the whole matter, for there are moving picture films which record clear pictures in those lights. Two seconds suffice to picture two or three beats of the heart, the acts of breathing and swallowing, movements of the diaphragm, abnormal action within the thorax, motions of joints. The relative thickness of the abdomen makes photographing the movements of its organs less satisfactory. Two seconds is too brief to get a good picture of the complete peristaltic wave of the stomach. But two seconds is enough to portray an ulcer in the fluctuating stomach or in the fluctuating duodenum.

For ordinary patients, Drs. Stewart, Hoffman & Ghiselin operate the moving picture camera at a standard speed of 16 frames a second, or 32 frames for the cycle. For unusually thick patients, through whom x-rays do not penetrate easily, the operators slow the camera twelve or eight frames a second. Thin people can stand 24 frames a second. The four chambers of their hearts then can be seen contracting on the projection screen.

The positive print of such an x-ray film may be cemented into a loop in a projector and run over and over to show a roomful of observers precisely how the patient breathes, throbs, swallows, belches.

[Although this item appears in Joseph Nathan Kane, Famous First Facts, (4th ed., 1981), p.715, it should be noted that the history of various persons, experimenting with cineradiography elsewhere, stretches back to shortly after X-rays were first discovered. Thus, there are various other firsts in the field, in various countries, depending on the circumstances and techniques by which they are defined. Earlier accomplishments also occurred in the U.S. So, any novelty presented in this article may be the particular adaptation of an amateur 16-mm movie camera, rather than more cumbersome equipment built by other investigators. The method here reported also uses the simplicity of merely pointing the camera at the visible light image on a suitably bright and sharp fluoroscopic screen. —Webmaster.]

Image added, not in original text), shows a still from an X-ray movie made by Dr. Janker in Germany (c.1937) of a heart in a rib cage viewed turned partway from frontal to lateral. Text is excerpted from 'Medicine: X-Rays at Cleveland', TIME Magazine (12 Oct 1936). (source)


Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
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