Historical information

X-Rays were first discovered on 08 November 1895. By 18 July 1896 staff members of the Ballarat School of Mines (SMB), were experimenting with the exciting new discovery.

The history of x-rays began on 08 November 1895 at the University of Wurzburg in Bavaria. The discovery was officially announced on 25 December 1895. The first radiographs in Ballarat were taken at the School of Mines in July 1896 according to the Ballarat School of Mines (SMB) Annual Report. Frederick J. Martell, the Registrar of SMB arranged for the importation of tubes, while John M. Sutherland, an electrician, conducted most of the experiments giving 6 inch, 12 inch and 16 inch sparks respectively. In a short time brilliantly successful results were obtained, with some SMB Roentgen negatives taken at this time still in existence today.

Samuel Ernest Figgis, H. R. W. Murphy, D. McDougall, and Frederick J. Martell carried out experiments at the SMB on Saturday evening 18 July 1896, producing 'perfect' negatives of a hand and wrist. A Roentgen Tube and an induction coil giving a two inch spark, the coil being sparked by the SMB's dynamo, were used to obtain these results. The Courier reported that 'the exposure of five minutes was ample' but concluded that 'the length of the exposure will be shortened as experiments proceed.'

The Ballarat Courier reported on 20 July 1896 that: "Thanks to the energy of the staff of The School of Mines, Ballarat, and particularly to Messers F.J. Martell and D. McDougall, the assistance of Rontgen X-rays will soon be available, for the relief of suffering humanity, at this institution."

Martell was an ardent amateur photographer, and Duncan McDougall's experience as an electrician has enabled the two gentlemen to carry their experiments on to a perfectly successful issue. At first these gentlemen, together with Professor Purdie and Mr W. Huey Steele, conducted a series of experiments by the aid of a Bonetti glass-plate induction machine which had been constructed by Mr McDougall. The results were very good, the various bones of the hand being distinctly visible.

The following people were among those who witnessed the first X-ray experiments to be carried out in Ballarat. Andrew Anderson, President of the School of Mines, a large number of ladies and gentlemen, the medical profession Dr Edward Champion (1867-1929) Dr Gerald Eugene Cussen (1888-1943) Dr William Edward Davies (1868-1928) Dr Charles William Henry hardy (1861-1941) Dr Edward Kenneth Herring(1864-1922) Dr Joseph Lalor (1859-1907) Dr James Thomas Mitchell (1856-1945) Dr Edward Graham Ochiltree (1857-1896) Dr Robert Denham Pinnock (1849-1902) Dr Joseph Francis Usher (c1832-1909) Dr Grace Vale (nk-1933). The staff of SMB Professor Alfred Mica Smith Professor D. J. Dawbarn Mr. F. J. Martell. (http://guerin.ballarat.edu.au/aasp/is/library/collections/art_history/honour-roll/honourroll_X-Ray_pioneers.shtml)

"Seven patients of the doctors who were present were treated. In each case the patient was suffering from the effects of an old wound or some other injury to other a hand or foot. One patient, a boy had a finger broken some years earlier and when xray plate of the injury was developed it indicated plainly the fracture on one of the joints of the third finger. In another case a woman had a foot had a foot X-rayed and the photograph revealed the seat of an earlier imjury to it. Likewise an injury to the bones of a hand of an elderly man was revealed by an x-ray photograph. Every X-ray photograph that evening showed the importance of this new development in electrical science and the doctors present agreed the "the results of the experiments on their patients, by showing the exact seat of the injury and its present condittion, would materially assist them iin supporting cures." (Warren Perry, The Ballarat School of Mines and Industries Ballarat, p 146.)

Physical description

A number of photographic xrays as taken by the Ballarat School of Mines in 1896. The xrays include bones, hands, feet, shoes and more.