The Discovery of Radiation and Its Hazards

J. Samuel Walker

in Permissible Dose

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2000 | ISBN: 9780520223288
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520924840 | DOI:
The Discovery of Radiation and Its Hazards

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Exposure to x-rays could cause serious bodily injury. Some physicians have noticed inexplicable burns on the bodies of patients after lengthy exposure to x-rays. Within two decades after they were first used, scientists and physicians concluded that exposure to x-rays could cause sterility, bone disease, cancer, and other harmful consequences. The hazards of x-rays were further underscored by the findings of the pioneering geneticist H. J. Muller, whose research with fruit flies during the 1920s indicated that reproductive cells were highly susceptible to damage from even small amounts of radiation. A similar pattern followed the discovery of the element radium. After an initial outpouring of public excitement and promiscuous misuse, the hazards of exposure gradually became apparent. Experiments with x-rays led to the discovery of natural radioactivity in 1896.

Keywords: x-ray; hazards; damage; discovery; radium

Chapter.  11434 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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