by Bettyann Holtzman Kevles
Rutgers University Press, 1996
Cloth: 978-0-8135-2358-3 | eISBN: 978-0-8135-5764-9
Library of Congress Classification RC78.7.D53K48 1997
Dewey Decimal Classification 616.07540904


X-rays, fluoroscopy, ultrasound, CT, MRI, and PET scans--medical imaging has become a familiar part of modern health care today. A century ago, however, the idea of looking inside the living body seemed absurd. Wilhelm Roentgen's X-ray image of his wife's shadowy hand--with her wedding band "floating" around a white bone--convinced doctors to rush the new tool into use for diagnosis and treatment.

By the 1920s, the technology was a commonplace wonder: army recruits had routinely lined up for chest X-rays during World War I, and children delighted in seeing the bones of their feet in the green glow of shoestore fluoroscopes. By the late 1960s, the computer and television were linked to produce medical images that were as startling as Roentgen's original X-rays. Computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MR) made it possible to picture soft tissues invisible to ordinary X-rays. Ultrasound allowed expectant parents to see their unborn children. Positron emission tomography (PET) enabled neuroscientists to map the brain.

In this lively history of medical imaging, the first to cover the full scope of the field from X-rays to MR-assistant surgery, Bettyann Kevles explores the consequences of these developments for medicine and society. Through lucid prose, vivid anecdotes, and more than seventy striking illustrations, she shows how medical imaging has transformed the practice of medicine--from pediatrics to dentistry, neurosurgery to geriatrics, gynecology to oncology.

Despite their formidable power to reveal the inner secrets of the body, no form of medical imaging can claim to be the product of a technological imperative. As Kevles points out, few of these costly inventions made it easily to the marketplace, and all are vulnerable to the changing economics of the health-care system. In the early years of X-rays, many doctors, technicians, and patients died from overexposure to the invisible radiation. Although we may still find delayed repercussions from these newer technologies, a different kind of danger may lie in our conviction that an early diagnosis is equivalent to a cure.

Beyond medicine, Kevles describes how X-rays and the newer technologies have become part of the texture of modern life and culture. They helped undermine Victorian sexual sensibilities, gave courts new forensic tools, provided plots for novels and movies, and offered artists from Picasso to Warhol new ways to depict the human form.

Naked to the Bone offers readers an unparalled picture of a key technology of the twentieth century.

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