Jennifer Lake's Blog

August 1, 2009

The X-Ray

Medically useful X-rays were developed in 1895 by Wilhelm Roentgen who successfully x-rayed his wife’s hand after a 15 minute exposure. The news went around the world in December and by January of 1896, x-ray machines were being built by any and everyone with enough electrical know-how to produce them. X-ray practitioners immediately began offering treatments and therapy and it was not uncommon to receive an x-ray lasting 30 minutes to an hour. The dosages of radioactivity at that time were unknown. You were just as likely to get your ‘treatment’ from an electrical engineer as from a doctor. In 1896 Chicago, Emil Grubbe and R. Ludlum ran a treatment course of 18 x-ray sessions for breast cancer. Today, thanks to the contemporary work of John Gofman, we know that x-rays cause breast cancer, but in the 1890s the novelty of x-rays caught on like wildfire.
In April of 1897, the first professional journal appeared, the Archives of Clinical Skiagraphy. Shortly after, the American X-ray Journal began publishing. In 1900, the newly formed American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS) published its own magazine, the American Journal of Roentgenology and within two years the ARRS was dominated by members of the American Medical Association. Treatments ranged over the common and minor ailments as well as the severe; headaches, stomach aches, ulcers, arthritis, sore joints, acne, rashes, facial hair, moles, earaches and fatigue. Patients of all ages and pregnant women were encouraged to seek treatment. Despite early warnings from doctors who were witnessing horrific side-effects, x-ray applications increased. By 1907, at least 11 devastating deaths in the research community induced by x-rays were on the record, including Clarence Dally, Thomas Edison’s glass-blower and technician.
The discovery of radium, and the broad news of it in 1903, followed a similar course in medical applications although the associated radioactivity was known and documented by its discoverers, the Curies and Henri Becquerel in France. Within a span of less than two decades, complementary technology with ‘radiotracers’ was further advancing the cause of nuclear medicine. The James Lind Library maintains early records of radium use but both X-ray and radium treatment were mostly delivered in the private setting of doctors’ offices, remaining unregulated with no particular requirements of reporting, and therefore unaccountable. In the 1980s, wide surveys to assess the competency and accuracy of x-ray equipment and technicians turned up an amazing degree of disparities. Irregular dosages, inadequate training and sloppy safety measures are still a primary issue in this field.
Beyond the history of abusive and extensive use of x-rays in medical treatment is the application of this technology for industrial research purposes. Chemists and biologists unendingly explored the interaction of x-rays with every known substance of matter. Chemical analysis and the mapping of molecules with x-rays developed into the study of “crystallography”. Radiologists were trained to perfect imaging techniques for a wide range of study in chemistry, physics and medicine with seemingly infinite possibilties of discovery in 3 dimensions. Breakthroughs in electricity and engineering allowed the x-ray machine model to serve new inventions in radio transmission, lighting, and the “cyclotrons” that became centerpieces in physics research, but beyond the familiar conveniences are the less publicly known experiments involving biology.
Bacteria, molds, yeasts, viruses, serums, filtrates, cells and tissue cultures were all subjects of irradiation with X-rays. The object of these experiments was to observe the effects on microscopic organisms. Mutations were observed very early as  dosage and intensity became understood and monitored in the laboratories. As larger and more powerful x-ray machines were built and tried for medical imaging, large lab animals became the subjects of “dose” experiments. In a three-part paper published in Rockefeller’s Journal of Experimental Medicine, a fatal dose of x-rays given to a dog in 1919 revealed the following:
[collagen-forming]”fibroblasts were paralyzed for a long time and unable to build up new tissue”…”it is possible that the (emigrated) lymphocytes are destroyed by the x-rays rapidly and in an explosive manner in 24 to 48 hours, as in the lymph node or thymus”…”researches of O. Hertwig and his school have proved beyond doubt that of all the parts of a cell, the nucleus with its chromatin is affected most”…”nuclei in mitotic division are especially sensitive and lose..their capacity for normal mitosis; they either do not undergo division at all or they show pathological mitosis”…”fibroblasts attain an enormous size,..appear paralyzed and incapable of mitosis or divide abnormally.” Damage to the dog was especially acute in the intestines; it died on day four. JEM, pub. 1922, “Roentgen Ray Intoxication” series,
Genetics research, enabled by X-rays, began to flower in the 1920s. Behind the famous researchers, in the root layers of the written experiments, are the mutant lifeforms that taught the experimenters other ways of manipulating living matter. A new simulated ‘evolution’ based on characteristic selection was brought into being. Mutants became industrial workhorses as well as fascinating subjects of observation, selected for qualities of “high yield” replication and other peculiar properties of chemistry. Mutant bacteria provide the marketplaces of the world with a variety antibiotics, vitamins, and solvents. In the 1950s it was projected that mutant yeasts would provide a high-protein food source that would solve problems of world hunger. In my article, “The Vegan Conspiracy”, I address some potential drawbacks in feeding the world on mutant yeasts.
Other drawbacks, not yet addressed, are the possibilities that mutated lifeforms bring new diseases into the world. I have yet to find a major experimental disease that does not involve the historic use of x-ray mutated organisms. It’s been simply a matter of accessing enough source material.
In upcoming posts on “Bacteriophage”, I’ll include links from the experiments to highlight the use of x-rays in biological research. Two researchers previously mentioned were adepts in physics. Max Delbruck was trained as a nuclear physicist and as he tells his own story, encouraged by Niels Bohr and Wolgang Pauli to take up “radiation biology”. Salvador Luria, who attained an MD after a long mediocre school performance, trained as a radiologist after med school and joined the team of Enrico Fermi at the University of Rome for a year before the pressing War split the group apart in 1938.
Here’s more information on X-rays and radiation and here are some examples of historic citations from the George Washington University ‘national security’ archive:  (

Searching the GWUNSA database: citations are listed in documents and can be searched with key words, such as  those from these entries:
“Gilman, P.K., and Baetjer, F.H..  
  Some effects of roentgen rays on development of embryos. 1904.
Am. J. Physiol 10: 222-224.##”
“Muller, H.J.. 
   Artificial transmutation of the gene.  1927.  Science
“Stern, S..                                                                                    
   Report of thirtyone cases of therapeutic abortion induced by
roentgen-ray therapy.  1928.  American Journal
Roentgenology,Radium Therapy 19: 133-140.##”
[see the case of Buck v. Bell in this context]
“Sandstrom, O.. 
   Subsequent degenerations after fractional protracted roentgen
irradiation.  1943.  Acta Radiologica 24: 289-294..##”
“Gratzek, F.R., Holmstrom, E.G., and Rigler, L.G..
Postirradiation bone changes.  1945.  Am. J. Roentgen.Radium
Ther. 53;  pp.  62-76.##

“Miller, R.W.  University of Rochester. 
   Some Potential Hazards of the Widespread Use of Roentgen Rays
in Pediatrics.  University of Rochester.  Atomic EnergyProject,
1952.  UR-191 report published March 13, 1952″

“Hammer-Jacobsen, E.  . 
   Therapeutic abortion on account of xray examination
duringpregnancy..  1959, 1963.  Danish Medical Bulletin 6;
pp.113-122, 1959.  (Nuclear Science Abstract 17, 38779, 1963)..##”
How to design and build abnormal brains using radiation during
development. In Disorders of the Developing NervousSystem,
Fields, W.S. and Desmond, M.M., eds..  Springfield, Ill:Thomas,
1961.  Also available as US Atomic Energy Comm TID6159:1-28, Jun
60;   pp. 60-97.##”


  1. Thanks Jennifer for filling in the little known history of food and “medicine” and the players involved.

    It seems that a chance discovery like x-rays fuels the imagination of all sorts of people. Unfortunately, the liberated notions of these people creates all sorts of havoc due to their almost total lack of appreciation/understanding they have about what life, and even the inanimate realms, are about. Nowadays this type of fractured and perverse thinking and its application are so pervasive in our culture that it is hard to imagine that a change in a positive direction is going to emerge soon from the mainstream culture.

    Comment by John Cowan — August 2, 2009 @ 7:55 pm | Reply

  2. John Cowan,

    I must disagree with you on the point of these people creating “all sorts of havoc due to their almost total lack of appreciation/understanding they have about what life, and even the inanimate realms, are about.”

    The evidence is becoming very clear they do indeed have great appreciation/understanding of life. However, they are choosing to use this knowledge to destroy and kill. Havoc is the INTENTION and not the product of ignorance.


    Comment by Artie — August 6, 2009 @ 2:21 am | Reply

  3. I see that you are both right and in agreement. The question is whether ‘knowledge’, ‘appreciation’ and ‘understanding’ are the same in value. To me they are not. I take John’s meaning as a Spiritual Understanding. He did not mention the havoc as unintentional, merely unappreciated. Clearly there was an early discernment based on knowledge that havoc would result…another un-or-underappreciated application of knowledge. Understanding is the synthetic integration of knowledge and appreciation taken to a higher level, imo. And yes, it seems that the Greeks had an advanced appreciation of life’s complexities, enough to have supported our modern growth to understanding. This is what divides us now. We still lack Understanding…and it seems that those who would benefit from the intentional havoc have grown immensely in their appreciation of this!
    (hope this isn’t confusing)

    Comment by JL — August 6, 2009 @ 4:32 am | Reply

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