Seeing through you

November 8th marked the 115th anniversary of the German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen’s detection of x-rays while conducting an experiment in his laboratory. The medical application of Röntgen’s x-rays as a diagnostic tool was immediately apparent.

Within a few months of the publication of his findings, a physics professor and football coach at the University of Minnesota, Frederick “Fred” Jones, acquired the equipment to duplicate Röntgen’s results. By March of 1896, Prof. Jones began providing campus lectures on the properties of x-rays and demonstrating the ability to determine densities of liquids and minerals, to see a pair of glasses within a leather purse, and to show the skeleton structure of frogs and fishes with use of the newly discovered rays. That April, Jones lectured medical students on the the use of x-rays to take pictures of tuberculosis patients.

In October 1896, Dean Millard of the Department of Medicine requested Prof. Jones assist in locating bullets in two patients at the City Hospital of St. Paul. Both were located successfully allowing for more precise surgical operations.

A decade later, the construction of the Elliot Memorial Hospital on campus highlighted the need for an on-site x-ray service. In 1912 Dr. Frank Bissell became the first radiographer for the University Hospitals. In 1923 the hospitals established a Division of Roentgenology with a focus of diagnostic and x-ray therapy.

To learn more about the history of radiology at the University of Minnesota, see the 1967 “A Brief History of the Department of Radiology” by Drs. Stephen Kieffer, Eugene Gedgaudas, and Harold Peterson.