Hughesair (Inflection Point)

Retired physician and air taxi operator, science writer and part time assistant professor, these editorials cover a wide range of topics. Mostly non political, mostly true, I write more from experience than from research and more from science than convention. Subjects cover medicine, Alaska aviation, economics, technology and an occasional book review. The Floatplane book is out there. I am currently working on Hippocrates a History of Medicine and Globalism. Enjoy!

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Location: Homer, Alaska, United States

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Earliest X-Ray Machine

When I was six or seven, I hung out at my Dad’s office a lot and rode with him on house calls. The office, on the second floor, had a generous waiting room. The door from there opened directly into a treatment room with a large ENT chair like a barber chair with a console for various sprays, suctions and cauterizations. He did most everything from the chair. A door in back, lead to his office, which included an examining table and surgical lamp. I had my tonsils out on that table and so did a number of my classmates. Off to the side of his office there was a hallway with an x-ray machine and developing room.
Dad was leading edge in those days with his x-ray machine; it must have been one of the first. The machine had four big brass globes and a Jacob’s ladder; it made a lot of noise. The Jacob’s ladder would go ssizzzuuii and crack as the machine built up a static charge on the brass globes. Then, with a bang, like a gunshot, the capacitors would discharge. Electrons would strike the copper plate and x-rays would cascade down a funnel shaped shield to expose the x-ray film and take a picture. Dad was very scientific about this. He was aware of the ionizing effects of radiation. He had lead shielding everywhere. Years later, however, I worried about the Real-estate office down below.

One day while I sat waiting for him in his office chair, he was in the x-ray room with a patient. I heard the familiar ssizzzuuii and crack, but then there was an unusually loud bang with smoke. A black man that looked seven feet tall with eyes the size of saucers and nothing on but an examining gown trailing behind, came running out of the back hallway, out the side door, down the steps, presumably, never to be seen again. Dad came out with a sheepish look on his face clutching a fire extinguisher. – Fond memories.


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