the British Society for the History of Radiology


100 Years of Medical Radiology, Adrian Thomas

The Story of Radiology, ESR     Pt1 Pt2

X-Rays in Medicine - the First Century

Early American radiology: the pioneer years, D J DiSantis AJR, 147, 1986

Preserving, celebrating radiology’s revolutionary road RSNA News


An Interventional Radiology Odyssey: The Story of my Life and Work
 by Josef Rosch

Springer  2016 pp103

Louis Harold Gray: a founding  father of radiobiology  by S Wynchank.

Springer 2017 pages 137         

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BSHR has recently joined the Oral History Society as a group member. It gives us access to their Journal and services. Take a look at their website for details.

If you wish to look at the Journal you will need our group username and password. Members can obtain these from the Secretary. Email

Report of the  British Society for the History of Radiology annual  lecture on ‘Albert Einstein’


Dr Arpan K Banerjee  Past Chair Brit Soc History of Radiology

The name Albert Einstein (1879-1955) is universally associated  with the term scientific genius and as a scientist he needs little in the way of an introduction.

Born in 1879 in Germany, he did not show early signs of his genius and in 1900 completed his teaching diploma in maths and physics at the Zurich Polytechnic. He struggled to get a job and ended up working in a patent office. In 1905 he completed his  PhD thesis from Zurich University entitled  ‘A New Determination of Molecular dimensions’. That was his annus mirabilis, publishing  four  important papers each itself worthy of a Nobel Prize aged only26 years. They were on the subject of Brownian motion, photoelectric effect (important for radiology), relativity and mass energy equivalence known more popularly as E=MC2. He instantly became  famous, became a lecturer in Berne , then a Professor in Prague, returning to Zurich in 1912 as Professor of Theoretical Physics. Einstein emigrated to USA and worked in Princeton. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. Einstein was feted the world over and became  friends with people as diverse as Charles Chaplin the film-maker and the Indian writer and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.

This year’s British Society for the History of Radiology’s annual lecture on 20 Feb 2017 was a theatrical  presentation entitled ‘Albert Einstein – Relativively speaking’ (pardon the pun!). It was presented by John Hinton and Jo Eagle of the Tangram Theatre Company (a company conceived by graduates of the Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris, a school of physical theatre whose alumni include Stephen Berkoff and  Yasmin Reza the playright).

John Hinton delivered the presentation  in the guise of Einstein and the evening included reminiscences of Einstein’s childhood,  his mother’s love of music, his first wife and her scientific contributions, his equivalence theory set to rap, his Princeton lecture, explanation of some of his ideas with audience participation.  His description of Arthur Eddington, the British  astronomer helping prove his theory of relativity during the solar eclipse of 1919, his relationship with his second wife Elsa  and more seriously his great upset that his discoveries had led to the atom bomb – Einstein was a pacifist.

The evening was  a fascinating, unique presentation of Einstein the man interspersed with music and song and had the audience captivated in the Governor’s Hall  at St Thomas’s Hospital, London on the 20th of February.

All who attended were enthralled and enlightened by the unique performance re-telling the story of Einstein,  a man universally acknowledged as the brightest scientific star in the human intellectual firmament.

First published in Rad Magazine  April 12 2017 p11

Review of History of Radiology Session  UKRC Radiology Conference 2017, 13 June, Manchester.

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

This year’s annual congress was  held in Manchester Conference centre a  couple of weeks after the city had been subject  to the dreadful bombing at the  end of the Ariana  Grande concert in  Manchester Arena. This is the first time in living memory that bags were searched at the conference entrance – a sad reflection of the modern world we live in.

The history session consisted of three talks. Prof Adrian Thomas opened with his talk on ‘Sebastian Gilbert Scott and the treatment of ankylosing spondylitis’.  Scott worked at the London Hospital. Scott had an interest in medical jurisprudence and skeletal variations. He published a book on this in  1931. He pioneered the importance of accurate interpretation of radiographs in compensation cases and insisted on quality radiographs of the injury being obtained  and the importance of being familiar with variations in appearance between normal and abnormal when interpreting these. He was a great pioneer in medico-legal reporting. Scott was, like many radiologists of his era, also interested in radiation treatment of medical conditions including asthma and ankylosing spondylitis.

This talk was followed by Dr Arpan K Banerjee’s talk on Neville Samuel Finzi (1881-1968). Finzi the pioneering  radiotherapist from St Bartholomew’s Hospital was a great medical benefactor leaving a large sum of money to the radiology section (he was President of the section  in 1943/44) of the Royal Society of Medicine in London. This money today funds the Finzi Prize for best paper presented at the Finzi Prize meeting. He pioneered high voltage radiotherapy in Britain and became an expert on throat cancer treatment. His many interests included mountain climbing , lawn tennis and music. Like Scott, Finzi also used radiation treatment for arthritis.

The final talk of the session was Prof Thomas discoursing on  ‘Philately and Tuberculosis’. The talk was illustrated with stamps of Koch, Calmette, Guerin and other pioneers in addition to ones of sanatoria, miniature radiography, radiography seals and stop TB campaigns.

All who attended  contributed to a lively discussion of the topics at the end and  the session was accompanied by the annual  radiology history stand  in the conference venue.

Report of ISHRAD meeting in Erlangen, Germany 2017

By Dr Arpan K Banerjee, Treasurer ISHRAD and Past Chairman British Soc  for the History Of Radiology

The sixth scientific meeting of ISHRAD was held in the Siemens museum , Erlangen, Germany on Oct 14, 2017.  The venue was the Siemens  Healthineers  museum which was opened in 2014 on the old  factory site of the early firm founded  in Erlangen by  Reiniger , Gebbert  and Schall which was later amalgamated  with Siemens  in 1932. The museum houses material pertaining to the history of radiology technology as well as other medical exhibits such as dental equipment and pacemaker technology. The contributions of the Siemens company in this field is well chronicled. Delegates had the opportunity  to explore  the historical  exhibits and see the early equipments  first hand.

Doris  Vittinghoff,  former head of  the museum, opened the conference  with a talk on the  history of the company in Erlangen and the development of the museum. Today  Siemens  the giant German  engineering  conglomerate is a major employer in Erlangen and is a major player in medical technology development  and manufacturing. One can sense the frantic activities that must have been occurring all those years ago on this site , now a tranquil  venue given over to the reflection of Siemens  considerable achievements in facilitating today’s unmistakable modern high tech medicine. The museum took four years in planning  between 2010 and 2014 and a modern glass annexe was added to the old brick walled building whose ground floor was used to house the exhibits.

Adrian Thomas   from UK then spoke on  ‘Siemens  as illustrated in philately and ephemera from the collection of Adrian Thomas.’  The audience learnt about Siemens connection with the house of Hannover. The Siemens  brothers were all brilliant inventors.

Sir William Siemens patented the dynamo for lighting in 1867. Werner  von Siemens invented a telegraph that used a needle instead of Morse code.   In 1879 Werner  Siemens demonstrated the first electric railway. Early  factories were based in Berlin, Erlangen and Nuremberg at the turn of the century. In 1966  the engineering conglomerate Siemens AG was formed.  

A wide  range  of stamps and other ephemera served to illustrate the story of this remarkable engineering family.

Gerrit  Kemerink  from  Holland  spoke next  on  ‘Forgotten electrical accidents and the birth of shock proof Xray systems.’  In the early days the practice of radiology was a dangerous business. The high voltage and currents and wiring systems with no insulation  were prone to catastrophic  accidents. Most accidents occurred during fluoroscopy and basic radiography. Body parts such as the head or hands would inadvertently touch high tension cables with lethal consequences. It is important to remember that although the numbers of radiation martyrs were greater totalling around 395, there were 33 electricity martyrs. Shockproof systems were introduced in 1935 and shielded high performance cables in 1928.  A string of safety measures   were introduced in the twenties and thirties resulting in a reduction in numbers of these accidents from the forties onwards.

Roddy  Cameron from  Scotland next spoke on ‘ Dr George Pirie, early Xray development in Dundee, Scotland.’  The introduction of Xrays  to Scotland  with Kelvin,  and  Dr Mc Intyre’s contributions  was reviewed  and the early days in Dundee described. George Pirie the first radiologist or medical electrician made early contributions at the Dundee  Royal infirmary.  Along with Professor Reid the Physiology Professor he joined the long line of selfless  self experimenters. He developed the radiology services in Dundee  which in 1913 was doing over 2400 cases and  he eventually suffered radiation damage  to his hands  and had his hands amputated  and was one of the early  British radiation martyrs. He was awarded  a Carnegie Hero Medal in 1926.

During the lunch interval  delegates went on a tour of the Siemens Museum . A fascinating collection of material pertaining to the early formation of the company and the early days of Xrays  was on display. Early Xray equipment, tubes,  screening devices, early ultrasound equipment  etc were  all in the collection. In addition early dental equipment and pacemaker technology  all gave an insight into the diverse medical technological  developments  made by the company throughout the twentieth century.

Dr Arpan  K Banerjee  from Birmingham, UK  spoke on ‘Neville Finzi a British radiology and radiotherapy pioneer and radiology benefactor. Finzi who was a radiologist  at St Bartholomew’s hospital, London  was interested in high voltage  radiation treatments and became a pioneer in  the treatment of laryngeal cancer. He treated Sigmund Freud during his last days in London. He was associated with the radiology section of the Royal Society of Medicine in London and was President during 1943/44. He was an expert in Radium treatment, harmful effects of radiation and was interested in radiology history writing a number of papers on this topic. He was a bon viveur,  with an interest in music and  mountain climbing. He also was a great radiology benefactor leaving a large sum of money to the radiology section of the Royal Society of Medicine where eponymous prizes and lectures are delivered in his honour.

Liz Beckmann followed with her talk on  ‘Godfrey Hounsfield- biographical notes.’   The early days of this great pioneer were described with Hounsfield’s early schooling in Magnus Grammar School in Newark being  a fairly unremarkable beginning to what  he subsequently  went on to achieve. It was nice to get a human perspective on this  remarkable man who  was  best described as a retiring, shy, modest  batchelor who never felt comfortable in the limelight but  was happiest when trying to solve problems – a true scientific genius whose  discovery of the CT scanner went on to revolutionise  medical practice.

Stefan Dirnberger  then spoke on the German radiologist and pioneer of Xray cinematography. His connections and work during the  Nazi regime were described and especially fascinating were the original movie clips of his studies of swallowing and deglutition. His pioneering cinematographic studies and  prodigious industry  and publications and educational films  remain  an unusual  legacy which Dr Dirnberger has been unravelling in his researches.

Next  Prof Thomas talked  on ‘Dawson Turner  and Sir Patrick Heron Watson’ . Watson was  a nineteenth century Edinburgh surgeon with a wide range of medical interests . His publications covered subjects as diverse as venereal diseases, orthopaedics and anaesthetics. He encouraged women to  study medicine  at a time when misogyny was rife in the medical profession . One of his pupils  Sophie Jex-Blake went on to found the the London school of medicine for women later known as the Royal  Free hospital.  Dawson Turner was a early radiology pioneer at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. He was in charge of the electrical department as it was then called and  eventually lost three fingers and an eye from radiation effects. He wrote the book  ‘The Manual of Practical Electricity’ and  also ‘Radium its Physics and Therapeutics’ the latter published in 1911. He was a radiation martyr like so many of the early pioneers.

The final talk of the day was delivered by  Stephan Popp from Wurtzburg , Germany ‘Who was first? Claims on the discovery of Xrays’.  Although  today we associate Rontgen with the discovery and all the accolades that followed, there were other scientists working on the problem before him. Today the names of Francis Hauksbee is little remembered but he demonstrated  a discharge in a vacuum as long ago as 1705 presenting his research to Isaac Newton at the Royal Society. The contributions of Crookes and Goodspeed were described as well as the contributions of Tesla and Puluj and Lenard and others who unfortunately did not realise the significance of their work and hence missed out on the glory awarded Rontgen in 1895.

The meeting was closed by Dr Uwe Busch who must be thanked for organising  an excellent meeting and  Doris Vittinghoff and the Siemens museum staff for hosting it in the Museum.

This report was first published on ISHRAD website Nov1 2017


Edith and Florence Stoney

Pioneering sisters in radiology

Adrian Thomas and Francis Duck

7pm, 19 February 2018

Governors’ Hall, St Thomas’ Hospital, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7EH

Edith and Florence Stoney were sisters whose contributions to radiology during the early decades of the 20th century epitomised a new world of professional and educational opportunities for women.

Florence set up the x-ray service at the Royal Free Hospital, pioneered radiation treatment for goitre, and the use of UV to treat diseases of the skeleton.

Edith is recognised as the first female medical physicist and she taught at the London School of Medicine for Women.

This is the extraordinary story of two talented, brave and resourceful pioneers who, in an age dominated by men, proved that women could be pre-eminent leaders in science.

Admission is free but tickets are required for entry. Please contact Dr Arpan K Banerjee at by 14 February. A retiring collection will be taken with a suggested donation of £5.

Images - Edith and Florence with their father. (With thanks to the Newnham College Cambridge Archives.)

X-ray by Florence showing splintered femur with shrapnel. From ‘Florence A Stoney. The Women’s Imperial Service League Hospital. Archives of the Roentgen Ray 19(11) April 1915. 388-393.)

Click here for an A4 poster to display