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B O DY


Pohl Omniskop X-ray machine


The mysterious X-rays


On 8 November 1895, German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen (1845–1923) discovered X-rays while investigating whether cathode rays could pass through glass. It took another 17 years before fellow physicist Max von Laue discovered that the mysterious X-rays were short-wavelength electro- magnetic waves. Röntgen received the first ever Nobel Prize for Physics, in 1901.


We are sick of the Röntgen rays… you can see other people’s bones with the naked eye, and also see through eight inches of solid


wood. On the revolting indecency of this there is no need to dwell… Perhaps the best thing would be for all civilized nations to


combine: to burn all works on the Röntgen rays, to execute all the discoverers…


Pall Mall Gazette, 20 March 1896


Pohl Omniskop X-ray machine Wood, steel and rubber Germany, 1925–35 RRa0023 / A600315/1 Science Museum / L0076296 Wellcome Images


One of the earliest X-ray machines that could be rotated around a patient, the Omniskop was used by Berlin-based doctor Ernst Rachwalsky for almost four decades. Launched a few years before the wide understanding that over-exposure to X-ray radiation could be harmful, the machine enabled doctors to capture a number of images from different angles, helping to improve diagnoses. The reactions of patients who ‘rode’ in the machine ranged from ‘frightened’ to ‘fascinated’.


Hybrid name


The brand name ‘Omniskop’ is probably derived from the Latin for ‘all’ (omnis) and the Greek for ‘to see’ (skopein).


— 76 — I have seen my death!


Anna Röntgen on seeing the bones within her hand


Anna Röntgen’s left hand Photoprint from a radiograph by Wilhelm Röntgen, 1895 32971i Wellcome Library


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