The History of Radiology

The field of radiology has an amazing history.

X-ray machines have been helping doctors successfully diagnose problems and provide life-saving patient care for more than 100 years.

Many medical modalities, including orthopedics, trauma and urgent care facilities, cardiology, dentistry, surgical centers, and more, rely on the science of radiology and the production of X-ray images to provide critical medical services.

Radiology has evolved from its early history of producing patient scans on chemically developed film into an incredible world of high-quality, digitally-rendered images that zoom around the cloud.

The evolution is amazing.

Let’s take a look at how the science of radiology and X-ray technology have advanced over the years, becoming the life-saving science that it is today.

A woman with short, curly hair and wearing scrubs stands in the foreground. In the background a man wearing identical scrubs is taking X-rays of a patient lying on the X-ray table — history of radiology.

The Birth of X-Ray Technology

The history of radiology began in the 19th century, when a number of scientists discovered the existence of various types of radiation and began studying their behaviors and possible applications.

X-rays specifically were discovered by Karl Roentgen, a German scientist, in 1895. Accounts of his discovery differ because, for unknown reasons, Roentgen had his notes and files burned upon his death. However, we do know he was studying how the rays passed through various objects and thinking about how those images could be captured on film.

After taking an X-ray image that revealed the inner skeletal structure of his wife’s hand, Roentgen immediately recognized there were medical applications for his discovery and ongoing research.

The History of Radiology: An Immediate Impact on Medical Care

Within weeks of Roentgen’s discovery, surgeons began using this new tool to improve their techniques and treatment methods.

By June of 1896, barely 6 months after Roentgen announced his discovery, battlefield physicians began utilizing X-rays to locate bullets in wounded soldiers.

At the turn of the century, the military also used X-rays for tuberculosis screening, slowing the spread of disease in cramped living conditions, which surely saved many lives.

By the early 1900s, hospitals around the world were making use of X-ray technology to better diagnose and treat their patients.

Radiology Specialists Become a Necessity

Early X-ray technology cemented its medical value in the treatment of wounded soldiers during the First World War, and hospitals began to rely more and more on X-ray machines in patient diagnoses.

Due to the increasing demand for faster and higher-quality services, doctors hired and trained assistants to perform the X-ray and conduct the initial portions of patients’ diagnoses.

As technology advanced over the years to come, these assistants would further specialize in the art and science of diagnosis. Radiology departments opened all over the world to train X-ray technicians, now known as radiologists.

The history of radiology tells the story of how the X-ray established its respected and valued place in the medical community.

Major Advancements in Radiological Technology

Since the early 1900s, there have been constant developments in X-ray technology and application, leading to:

Major technological advancements over the following decades included ultrasounds in the 1950s and CT (computed tomography) scans in the 1970s.

With the rapid developments in computer technology, CT scans were able to combine the clarity of the X-ray with the precision of computers, leading to cross-sectional imaging.

Further advances in computer technology led to computed radiography (CR) in the 1980s, and the opening years of the 21st century saw the development of digital radiography (DR), made possible by the internet explosion and improvements in cloud-based storage.

Southwest X-Ray Keeps You Up to Date

History reveals the tremendous impact of radiology and X-ray technology on the medical profession.

The constant evolution of this field has improved how patients are diagnosed, increased the understanding of human anatomy and physiology, and continually raised patient care standards.

With constantly upgrading technology, it’s critical your radiology equipment stays relevant, effective, and in excellent working order.

That’s our specialty at Southwest X-Ray. We provide medical facilities and practices with:

  • Better equipment
  • Better follow-up service over the life of your equipment
  • The best customer service for your organization

Southwest X-Ray is here to make sure you’re able to provide the highest standard of patient care, even as industry technology continues its rapid advancement.

Contact us today to learn more.


Shad Merchant

Shad Merchant is an industry veteran with experience in every aspect of the X-ray and imaging industry, having spent over 20 years assisting small medical practices, massive hospital systems, and everyone in between, all over the world, to find the right imaging solution for their needs. Contact him at to learn more about what equipment is right for you.


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