X-Ray Imaging

In 1895, Wilhelm Röntgen noticed that electromagnetic radiation would expose bone structure under certain conditions. He invented the medical X-Ray machine. For his invention, Röntgen received the first Nobel Prize for Physics, in 1901, and several other illustrious awards. Due to WWI, companies were forbidden from paying the German royalties and his savings were destroyed by post-war hyperinflation. Röntgen died bankrupt despite the enormous impact of his work. However, General Electric used the technology to build a thriving medical imaging business that still exists.

Even high-quality modern sources wrongly attribute the X-Ray tube to prolific GE inventor Elihu Thomson. However, Thomson’s own papers make few mentions of x-rays. His only dated lab journal entry, Feb. 26, 1896, references “X-rays of Röntgen.”

Thomson’s earliest patent involving x-rays has a priority date of Feb. 14, 1898, three years after Roentgen’s work. The entry is titled “Roentgen-ray tube.”

It seems likely that Thomson may have, at most, invented a better (or at least different) x-ray generation tube.

Thomson came to GE after Edison General Electric Company acquired the Thomson-Houston Electric company in 1892, renaming itself the General Electric Company. He refused to move his laboratory from Massachusetts to GE headquarters in NY and also refused a management position.

Thomson has countless other legitimate innovations, with over 700 patents.