The British Society for the History of Radiology

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The aim of the Society is to stimulate interest in the History of Radiology and artefacts, for the benefit of the members and the public. We are supported by numerous professional bodies and are a registered charity:  Charity Number 1012505. For more details click on the BSHR tab.  Email

Report of BSHR annual  lecture ‘Marie Curie and the origins of early diagnostic radiology and radiotherapy’  

Report by Dr Arpan K Banerjee  Chair British Society for the History of Radiology

The venue of this year’s British Society for the History of Radiology  annual guest lecture on the 22 Feb 2016 was again the magnificient Governor’s Hall at St Thomas’s Hospital, London.  Over 100 attendees were priviledged to hear a masterly exposition by the distinguished science historian and author from Oxford University Dr Allan Chapman  on the contributions of Marie Curie and Roentgen to modern diagnostic and therapeutic radiology  set in the context of the advances in the nineteenth century science which made all of this possible.

In the eighteenth century radiation and invisible forces were everywhere. A general fascination with  invisible forces was present in society with light waves , magnetism and electricity the subjects of enquiry and study by all and sundry including quacks who were respected physicians often  interested in these  unusual fields of scientific enquiry ( only recently in the twentieth century did the quack become a pejorative term for alternative practitioners) . Mesmer , the Viennese physician tried treating patients with magnetism which was parodied in his time by Mozart. The contributions of James Clark Maxwell to electromagnetism and work  by the polymath Thomas Young  who coined the term energy  and other pioneering  scientists of the nineteenth century paved the way for Roentgen’s great discovery in 1895.

This set off  further great advances in physics including  Becquerel’s discovery of radioactivity from his studies on uranium and in 1899  J J Thompson’s discovery of the electron. Marie Curie met Becquerel in Paris  and worked on pitchblende. In 1898 she isolated Polonium (named after her native country Poland) and radium.  She was the recipient of 2 Nobel Prizes one in Physics and the other in Chemistry. Her husband Pierre was also a distinguished experimenter  receiving the Nobel Prize in Physics with Marie Curie in 1903 for their work on radioactivity. He was unfortunately killed in an accident  in 1906. Marie Curie became the first female Professor in the University of Paris and  in 1911 won her Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In the first world war she  procured  xray equipment  and trucks  for her mobile radiography units for field hospitals.  In the early days radium found itself being used for a wide range of purposes not necessarily medicinal. It was  the French radiologist from the Curie Institute who in 1922 demonstrated that throat cancer could be treated with  Xray treatment and went on to describe fractionated radiotherapy   which became routine treatment in the 1930’s .

Dr Chapman’s address was a masterly exposition  with some interesting illustrations and had the audience captivated by his erudition. All who attended remarked what an interesting and informative evening the lecture had been.

First published in  April 2016 Rad Magazine.


The Hirtz Compass - X-ray guided surgery in WW1 by Francis Duck in Scope vol 25 Issue 1 2016. Click here

Edith and Florence Stoney: X-ray pioneers by Francis Duck. In West of England Medical Journal Vol 115 Issue 1 2016. Click here


The 25th Congress of the BSHM August 2013

The History Session at UKRC June 2014

Nervous Women…ISHRAD 2012

The History Session at UKRC June 2015


Francis Duck’s  ISHRAD lecture in Vienna 8 March 2014 in pdf form. It’s nearly 40 MB


The British Institute of Radiology has produced a short film about the history of radiology during World War 1.  BIR past-president, Professor Andrew Jones, interviews  Adrian Thomas about the important role of radiology during the war and some of the major figures during that period. The film features some interesting artefacts.

Find it here.


Dr Paul Frame  has built up a museum at Oak Ridge Associated Universities, Tennessee that covers many aspects of atomic and nuclear history: measuring instruments, particularly those for health physics, are well represented but there is a wide-ranging collection of documents. It contains some artefacts of radiology and much of it is online.


Adrian Thomas’s short history of radiology is a good start to finding out  about its fascinating past. Other accounts can be found through the History tab above.


A new book...  Radium and the Secret of Life by Luis Campos, University of Chicago Press, 2015.

History of Radiology Session  UKRC Radiology Conference 2016, June 8, Liverpool

Reviewed by Dr Arpan K Banerjee, Chairman British Society for the History of Radiology

This year’s annual  congress was again  held in Liverpool which now boasts a new conference venue linked to the previously used venue in the refurbished waterfront area of this great city and again the British Society for the History of Radiology organised  a successful  session of talks  attended by a wide range of delegates.

The invited lecture this year was delivered by the distinguished retired  physicist  from the Royal Marsden Hospital and Institute of Cancer Research, Kit Hill whose talk was titled ‘Sir Joseph Rotblat in Liverpool; pioneer of medical scanning; keeper of nuclear conscience’. In 2008 Kit Hill published a brief biography of Rotblat entitled ‘Professor Pugwash:The man who Fought Nukes’

Rotblat was born in Poland in 1908 and studied physics in Warsaw obtaining his PhD in 1938. In 1939 he was recruited by Chadwick the discoverer of the neutron to work with him on the cyclotron project in Liverpool. In 1939 Otto Frisch had discovered  nuclear fission and Rotblat worked with him in Liverpool on Uranium.  Rotblat was aware that his work could be used to build a bomb  and was part of the team that  went to Los Alamos, USA to work on the Manhattan project to build the atomic  bomb. Rotblat however was unhappy about the way nuclear weapons had been deployed in the Second World War and returned to Liverpool to lead the medical physics department there and became a pioneer in nuclear medicine imaging. He conducted pioneering research on radioisotopes and thyroid scanning publishing an important paper with Ansell in 1948 on this topic. He later moved to St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London as the Professor of Medical Physics there retiring from the post in 1976.

Rotblat was a scientist with a deep moral conscience and ended up as a critic of nuclear weapons. With Bertrand Russell the eminent British philosopher and Albert Einstein he signed the now famous  Russell-Einstein manifesto in 1955 and  with Cyrus Eaton’s funding the Pugwash conferences were born (Rotblat was general secretary) and the meetings became a leading forum for the campaign against nuclear arms. Rotblat was an energetic campaigner and was rewarded with a Nobel  Peace Prize in 1995 (along with Pugwash) for his efforts and his ceaseless campaigning for nuclear disarmament.

This presentation was followed by proferred papers. Francis Duck delivered Adrian Thomas’s paper (Adrian was unfortunately  unable to attend) on Silvanus Thompson. Silvanus Thompson was a remarkable Victorian polymath , an electrical engineer, a Professor of Physics, a prolific author known for his book ‘Calculus Made Easy’  amongst others and of course the first President of the Rontgen Society. He become a Fellow of the Royal Society in  1891   and delivered the Christmas lectures at the Royal institution in 1910. He also wrote biographies of  Faraday and Kelvin and coined the term Light visible and invisible  in 1896 following  Rontgen’s discovery.

Francis Duck delivered the next paper  titled ‘Every picture tells a story-Salonika1917’. The mysterious investigation of a old photograph uncovered the fascinating stories of the Stoney sisters. The story of Edith Stoney the physicist and her contribution to radiography in World War 1 was  retold including the contributions of  the lesser known George Mallet from the picture in question.

Paul Bland then spoke on ‘Challenges of Imaging 1896-1930 at St Bartholomew’s Hospital’. The contributions of Dr Hugh Walsham were presented. In 1912 the departments split into the Xray and electrical departments the latter under the leadership of Elkin Cumberbatch. The safety aspects started to play a greater role with the adoption of aprons to protect against harmful radiation  something that took a little while to be appreciated by health workers of that era.

The final talk by Marcelo Vasquez Rios was entitled  ‘A pictorial history of the Xray: from Rontgen to tomography’. The work of the early pioneers of Xray tubes and early technical advances  including those of Siemens and Edison were included as well as the pioneering contributions of Rollins to radiation protection.

Again the session was well received and complemented by a stand in the exhibition.


Bones : Orthopaedic Pathologies in Roman Imperial Age by A Piccioli et al reviewed by Arpan Banerjee. Go to BOOKS

Report of History Sessions, International  Congress  of Radiology, Buenos Aires, Argentina  24 September 2016

The Sheraton Hotel and Conference Centre, Buenos Aires Argentina was the venue for the 29th International Congress of Radiology (21-24 Sept 2016) organised by the International Society of Radiology  a society founded in 1925  for the promotion of radiology knowledge and teaching worldwide. Over one hundred invited speakers from 24 countries delivered invited talks in addition to proffered papers and posters and an exhibition which was attended by several thousand delegates.

Buenos Aires , often considered the ‘Paris’ of Latin America was a wonderful  venue for an international conference. The city with its magnificent  boulevards (avenue Julio 9 is one of the widest boulevards in the world), beautiful parks, statues,  a mixture of architecture  old including the Casa Rosada (with European influences) and new  skyscrapers,  museums,  bookshops galore  , shopping galleries and a famous opera house  ‘The Teatro Colon’ as well as traditional tango houses  and a recently developed dockland area provide the visitor with much to explore.

A wide range of radiology topics were covered during the conference including  a session  on the history of radiology organised with the International Society  for the History of Radiology (ISHRAD).

Read Arpan Banerjee’s report here