Window Into the Origins of Radiology

1917 "Wantz X Ray Apparatus" with Coolidge Tube

Large overall view of Antique xray machine

Yale Radiology recently acquired a vintage X-ray machine. The device was initially purchased by Connecticut Internist Dr. MacRae in the 1920’s and donated to Yale in 2016 by his son, Dr. Douglas MacRae, a retired doctor. 

wantz xray machine label

The Victor Electric Company manufactured this machine. C.F. Samms and J.B. Wantz founded the Victor Electric Company in Chicago in 1893 and began producing X-ray machines in 1896. Victor Electric was later acquired by General Electric, eventually becoming GE X-Ray Corporation.

History of the Apparatus

Roentgen portrait

Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen reported his discovery of X-rays in 1895, using an X-ray image of his wife’s hand. The impact was immediate and enormous - news of X-rays spread across the globe as physicists and tinkerers rushed to duplicate Roentgen’s experiment. Roentgen was rewarded with the first Nobel Prize for Physics. Early medical applications came within weeks and the first radiology department was established within a year!

Diagram of vintage xray process

Early X-ray production was inconsistent. The development of the Coolidge Tube in 1913 led to uniformly good quality radiographs. The early “X Ray Apparatus” and diagram help to illustrate how X-rays are generated. A generator in the cabinet creates a high voltage potential, which is regulated by the distance between the silver electrodes on the cabinet. The high voltage accelerates electrons to the anode, producing X-rays. Bare wires without insulation were used in the early 19th Century.

Internal generator

Internal generator inside cabinet