On November 8, 1885, German physics professor Wilhelm Roentgen accidentally stumbled upon a truly revealing discovery. While the professor was performing an electron experiment, he noticed that a glowing green light had passed through a piece of black cardboard he had placed over a glass tube, and that the light had imprinted shadows on a nearby object. He didn’t know what these strange rays were, so he called them “x-rays.” After many weeks of perfecting the technology, he tested it on his wife’s hand, revealing the bones inside (and her wedding ring). It was the world’s first x-ray image!

Ever since Roentgen’s discovery, radiographers and radiologists have used x-rays and newer types of medical imaging, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) and computerized tomography (CT scans), to look inside the bodies of people who are injured or sick. While radiographers and radiologists are both medical professionals trained in the science of medical imaging, radiologists are medical doctors who specialize in specific types of medicine.

Medical imaging has led to drastic improvements in human health, but can be dangerous, since it often uses radiation. High doses of radiation can cause health problems, from hair loss to cancer, which is why specialists are trained to apply radiation in tiny amounts and take precautionary measures to protect their patients. When the dentist puts a heavy lead apron over you before taking x-rays of your teeth, for example, it’s to protect your body from radiation that could potentially harm you.

What is World Radiography Day?

World Radiography Day is celebrated on November 8th, the anniversary of Roentgen’s discovery of the x-ray. Sponsored by the European Society of Radiology (ESR),  Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), and the American College of Radiology (ACR), the day was founded to raise awareness around the importance of radiography to human health and medicine. 

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