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Mobile X-ray vehicle, England, 1948

This 1948 Leyland ‘Beaver’ van is equipped with X-ray apparatus for mass miniature radiography. It was used in mobile screening programmes. These were used to detect pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) in large groups of people. Early diagnosis meant lower risk of infection to others such as co-workers or family. It also meant a higher chance of recovery. A person can have TB without showing any symptoms, which means it can be spread unnoticed. When this unit launched, the attending dignitary was the first patient. His X-ray revealed a chest problem. He died a few months later. Mass radiography only became possible with technological developments. These included extremely small and fast camera lenses applied to X-ray work. The X-rays produced were only 10 cm high. If chest problems were detected, the patient would be sent for a full X-ray. Mobile X-ray services played a large role in public health campaigns against tuberculosis in the 1940s and 1950s. Their success saw them phased out in the early 1980s. Britain pioneered mass miniature radiography of this kind. The van is still roadworthy. It was offered to the Science Museum by South West Thames Regional Health Authority.

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Glossary: mass miniature radiography

No description.

Glossary: tuberculosis

An infectious disease that is caused by a bacterium first identified by Robert Koch in 1882. The disease usually affects the lungs first, and is accompanied by a chronic cough.

Glossary: x-rays

A wave of electromagnetic radiation that has high energy and short wavelength. It is able to pass through many materials, except those of high density such as metals or bones. Discovered in 1895 by William Roentgen.

Glossary: mobile x-ray set

No description.

Glossary: vehicle

No description.