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X-ray photography of a woman's hand, Manchester, England, 1896

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The hand of a woman who has arthritis is shown in this X-ray photograph. This condition damages the joints. The X-ray was taken in 1896 by German physicist Sir Arthur Schuster (1851-1934). Hands were a popular subject of early X-rays. The first X-ray image was taken in 1895 by German physician Wilhelm Röntgen (1845-1923). It was of his wife’s left hand. X-rays quickly proved useful as a diagnostic and therapeutic tool. X-rays were used by battlefield physicians to locate bullets in wounded soldiers within six months of Röntgen’s announcement. X-rays allowed physicians their first look inside the body without surgery.

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Glossary: x-ray photograph

An internal image of the body that is produced by exposing a photographic plate to X-rays.

Glossary: arthritis

Inflammation of joints; swelling, pain and decreased mobility are typical symptoms.

Glossary: diseases of old age

Refers to a group of diseases whose appearance is more common in older people and therefore on the increase in societies where individuals are living longer. Examples include arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis. The treatment and care of older people is known as geriatric medicine.