zombie jamboree

Sarah Francis Whiting views her hand bones by X-rays in 1896

Toronto. Early photographic media were unable to record the much weaker lower end of the visible spectrum (reds, some oranges) but what about the spectrum above the visible blues and violets? In 1896, just weeks after Germany’s Wilhelm Röntgen publicly announced his discovery of what are now called x-rays Sarah Francis Whiting of Wellesley College in the States replicated his experiment and achieved identical results.

Whiting is shown in this image viewing the bones of her hand in a fluoroscope. Behind it and her hand can be seen the naked bulb of a Crookes tube excited to a high voltage by an induction coil. These were the days before x-rays were found to be deadly after steady use over time and lead shielding be came mandatory.

In another photograph at Wellesley, Whiting’s colleague Mabel Chase is shown in the same laboratory using the Crookes tube to record her hand bones on a photographic plate – no camera needed!

Thanks to Russ Forfar in the wilds of Southern Ontario for this bit of history. For decades film was used to capture bone tissue by x-rays. Lead vests and lead sheets were used to protect sensitive body areas from the energy of the rays. Today care is still taken but the x-rays are used digitally and pop up on a computer screen. Far less energy is required to get a good record.

NB. The title is that of the song “Zombie Jamboree” written in about 1953 by Winston O’Connor and sang here by the Kingston Trio who included it in an album a few years later (one of my favourite songs over the decades).

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