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X-Rays: Topics in Chronicling America

From the late 19th to early 20th century, the discovery and use of x-rays begin to emerge. This guide provides access to material related to "X-Rays" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


"Most Potent X-Ray Yet Produced."  January 19, 1898. The Herald (Los Angeles, CA), Image 10. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Discovered by Wilhelm Roentgen in 1895, x-rays, or Roentgen Rays, were an instant spectacle in the medical and scientific communities. Initially used to examine internal injuries, scientists such as Thomas Edison quickly began investigating new ways to use x-rays. The dark side of x-rays emerged, however, as people developed skin cancer and “x-ray disease” after exposure to the rays. Despite the danger, experimentation with x-rays continued in earnest. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


1895 The German Scientist Wilhelm Roentgen discovered the x-ray, sometimes called the Roentgen Ray at the time.
1896 X-rays are used in hospitals to help with examinations and surgery.
1904 Thomas Edison’s assistant dies from skin cancer and Edison becomes sick due to x-ray exposure.
1915 Radium is reported to cure “x-ray disease.”
1919 The x-ray is used to examine a bomb to protect an inspector.
1921 X-rays are reported to treat cancer.