To the Editor:
Because of my mixed medical heritage (B.M.S. Dartmouth Medical School, M.D. Harvard Medical School, and ophthalmology residency at Yale), I receive the alumni bulletins of all three institutions. I read with great interest your excellent article Medicine's new eyes. I was greatly impressed by the claim that Yale physicist Arthur W. Wright made the first X-ray image in the United States on Jan. 27, 1896, just one day after an article entitled The New Photography appeared in the New York Sun newspaper describing Roentgen's discovery of X-rays on November 8, 1895.
In the Winter 1995 issue of Dartmouth Medicine an article appeared describing the first clinical X-ray in America: of the wrist of Eddie McCarthy, a 14-year-old boy who fell while ice skating on the Connecticut River in Hanover, N.H. This first clinical X-ray was taken at Reed Hall at Dartmouth College on Feb. 3, 1896, and reported in an article published in Science dated Feb. 4, 1896. Physics professor Edwin Frost (and brother of Dr. Gilman Frost, a professor at Dartmouth Medical School and physician of Eddie McCarthy) wrote: “It was possible yesterday to test the method on a broken arm. After an exposure of 20 minutes, the plate on development showed the fracture in the ulna very distinctively. Comment upon the numerous applications of the new method in the sciences and arts would be superfluous.”
Yale's first X-ray image combined with Dartmouth's first clinical X-ray shows that these two institutions were (and continue to be) on the cutting edge of medical technology. It should also be remembered that Dartmouth and Yale share a common heritage, that of Nathan Smith, founder of Dartmouth Medical School in 1797 and co-founder of Yale Medical School over a decade later.
John D. Bullock, M.D.
Professor and Chair
Department of Ophthalmology
Wright State University School of Medicine