The beginning of X-ray photography during the Qajar era

Mohammadreza Tahmasbpour

In 1895, the German physicist, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen studied cathode rays by passing an electric current through a special glass tube that accidentally discovered an unknown beam that affected the photographic surface. Röntgen called that unknown beam an X-ray. Although science photography began with other aspects, many of the functions of photography in science expanded with the phenomenon of X-rays. In Qajar era of Iran, the history of the first movements of scientific photography began in a limited way with photography of magnifying creatures, photography of the sphere of the moon, and strange creatures. News and reports which were related to scientific photography from foreign newspapers were regularly translated and followed in the newspapers of the Qajar period and after. The phenomenon of X-ray photography, however, is one of the most interesting scientific topics discussed in newspapers and in the memoirs of some famous men and figures of the Qajar era. This article deals with how this type of photography began and spread in Qajar era in Iran.
a month before the assassination of Nasser al-Din al-Shah on April 30, 1896, Mohammad Hassan Khan Etemad al-Saltanah was informed of the discovery and new possibility of X-ray photography through an article in a French newspaper and intended to translate this article for Nasser al-Din Shah. He was very happy to hear about the invention of X-rays in the diagnosis of diseases and thought that with this invention, sixty years will be added to his life, he was the first person to die before translating the news of this new invention! The story of Etemad-ol-Saltaneh's happiness at the news of this invention and his death shortly after the news of the discovery of X-ray photography was published is very readable.
On the morning of the thirteenth day of the pregnancy of April 1, 1896, Etemad-ol-Saltaneh summoned me. I arrived at the great library that served them. They said that the newly discovered light, Rayon X, in spite of which there is no other object of obstruction. Detailed article has been written on this subject in French newspaper L’illustration, they have published a photo of a rabbit and a quality photo with this light, so that the bullet is visible in the bone of the rabbit's foot and the coins inside the bag can be seen well.
His Majesty, Nasser al-Din Shah asked for the translation of that article until tomorrow, because today I am going visit Abdul Azim, you translate this article and bring in until sunset; I will serve the king after consideration. They took the newspaper off the table and they were kind to me and he said:
I was very afraid of dying, but with this development, human life increased. After that, they clean any kind of internal disease with this photo and treat the same defective point, at least sixty years were added to my life [!]
He said this and stood up with a fat torso and a strong body. My servant, according to his youth, as he falls and knows; and on the occasion of Sizdah Bedar, I went for a walk in the park with a group of friends. The duties of Sizdah Bedar did not allow me to do that recommended thing. Near sunset, I came home in a hurry, I had not yet written a few lines when the morning messenger called me. I was sure that he come for the translation, so I told him that I will bring the translation in another hour. He answered in Persian and Turkish ascent:
‘’The translated text is not useful, the King died. I hurried to his house. I saw him lying in the inner room, and Hakim Bashi Toluzon, his friend, was crying with the whole family. Short-sighted life and long hope.’’
Say: You will surely meet the death from which you are fleeing. Jome sura, verse 8.


Now is December, 1922, almost 28 years after this story, radiography has completely developed, so that it has been brought in Tehran and many stranger things have been invented and "It was discovered but death has not been prevented yet ..." 
This is the first news of the invention of X-rays among the writings of the Qajar era in Iran. From now on, the surprise of this new invention can be seen in some newspapers and diaries of the men of the Qajar era.
The author of this report also mentions that twenty-eight years have passed since the invention of X-ray imaging and the advances of this scientific phenomenon in that period, X-ray imaging in Tehran, as a normal practice in medicine.
Fifteen days after the assassination of Naser al-Din Shah in Tehran, "Etella" newspaper is the first newspaper to translate and publish the news about the invention of X-rays under the title (strange and useful discovery):
«Ettela, Volume II, Number 393, p. 3, Saturday, 16 May 1896.
Strange and useful discovery
The St. Petersburg newspaper writes: "These days, all the talk of science and technology about strange exploration is new, and the discoverer of this strange secret is Dr. Röntgen, a teacher at the public school in Weisberg, Germany." The teacher has discovered a new ray of light that is invisible to the naked eye but is perceptible in photographic material, and one of its very strange properties is that it passes through dark objects and things that block other rays; It cannot be prevented ... As a result, with the help of this ray, the opposite of things that cannot be seen with the naked eye can be taken. "As they have taken pictures of some bones of the human body so far and identified some unknown diseases ..."
Following is a detailed account of Emperor Guillaume II's expression of interest in the discovery and the summoning of Rontgen to Potsdam to explain how the discovery was made, as well as the description of Röntgen's first photograph. Finally, it is mentioned that the Naseri newspaper, which is published in Tabriz, has published a report entitled "Photo of a fetus in the womb" from your French newspaper:


FIG. 2

“... The Sharifi Nasseri newspaper published in Tabriz writes the following as a photo of the fetus in the abdomen quoted by your French newspaper: To date, Monsieur Röntgen (discoverer of this light) and other examiners have not been able to take a photo. Except for the bones of the hands or feet and the ability to take pictures inside the thick human limbs. Now, according to an appointment written in Berlin, the capital of Germany, the teacher Monsieur Kiesling has obtained complete results from this operation and hopes that he will photograph all human organs without exception and difference, and that the alleged teacher will bring a pregnant woman. "And the baby in her womb was photographed, just as the newly formed fetal limbs were fully embodied in the photograph.”



The Nasseri newspaper, which was published in Tabriz, also wrote a detailed report on the discovery of Röntgen in the second 35, on February 1896:
“Monsieur Röntgen, the teacher, while doing chemical work in the city of Duisburg, discovered light and ray, which is now called Zia Röntgen, and the same light in objects that are light. Our eye does not penetrate even a thousand degrees more than the light of the eye in its examination, it penetrates to purity, and by that light, the image of some invisible objects due to the occurrence of those objects behind some objects that have a transcendental object. For example, the opposite of the composition of the human femur is removed from the flesh and skin by the said light, and the flesh on the bone of the veil is exposed to that light; "It is like a crystal cloth that has no transcendental contrast at all ...”  
The report is followed by a detailed account of the events surrounding the discovery of the X-ray phenomenon, and several reports from French and English newspapers, all of which indicate various experiments, photographs, and surprises with this new phenomenon.
Undoubtedly, the news of this new discovery and its useful applications in medicine also reached Mozaffar al-Din Shah, who had just reigned at that time and was still living in Tabriz, and laid the groundwork for his acquaintance with this phenomenon and then buying an X-ray camera on his second trip to Europe.
Other reports on the discovery and application of X-ray photography can be traced back to the memoirs of the men of this period.
In the book of notes of Mohammad Ali Khan Sadideh-al-Saltanah Bandar Abbasi about the invention of X-ray machine, with a wonderful title in 1896; and in the meeting with Moayed-al-Saltanah, his words are quoted:
"We went from the Kaj garden to see Moayed-al-Saltanah ... They are aware of the science of literature and modern technology. They said that one of the Germans had recently invented a ray that does not prevent the transcendent [from seeing things]. Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany, placed his ring in four nested iron chests, and clearly taking a picture of the ring. The emperor immediately bestowed the first emblem of his government to the inventor. It really is a strange invention. » 
It is obvious that in 1896. News of the invention of the X-ray phenomenon has been of great interest to listeners, and has been widely discussed in friendly and scientific meetings.
Another source of reports on photography with this new phenomenon is the memoirs of Aziz al-Sultan and how he became acquainted with the new method of X-ray photography. Ghulam Ali Khan Aziz al-Sultan, known as Milijak, who was himself acquainted with photography and was a prolific amateur photographer, wrote in his memoirs, which have been published in four volumes in recent years, about his personal observation of the X-ray machine and photographing with it in Mirza Ibrahim Khan's shop.  The report of photography with this device in the bookbinding shop in Tehran is a complete and accurate report of the application of this scientific phenomenon in Iran, and it is very thought-provoking to study the beginning of scientific and medical photography in Iran.
When he first heard about the invention and photographed Bookbinder in his shop with an X-ray machine, he underestimated Bookbinder and considered him ignorant and a liar: 
“Sunday, 20 April 1902, ... Bookbinder ... came, ... spoke a little. Although his speech was not audible, it was very ridiculous to understand such a person. "I have brought an item that belongs to the doctors," he said. When [everything] in the hollow [inside] the body is sick, it shows from the outside.” 
But two days later, on Tuesday, 1902, when he went to look at the X-ray machine or his ossuary, he wrote in detail about that machine: 
“Tuesday, May 22, 1902 ... Last night, at the house of Entezam al-Dawla, where Bookbinder was, said that he could be seen with the power of electricity in his body. He promised me to go and watch there today, I said to Seif-al-Malik: Do you want to go and watch it too? He said: I am not reluctant. They presented the carriage. We went from Cheragh-e-Gaz Street to Topkhaneh Square, from there we went to Lalehzar Street and went straight to the bookbinder shop. There were Salar al-Saltanah and Ruknah al-Saltanah, who had promised to come that night. Mansour al-Hokama also arrived later. They turned on the lights, the equipment is very spectacular, it has a very large camera that makes it very powerful, it also turns on the lights. It looks like a sack that encloses with a drawstring.  Whoever stands in front of the light, someone puts that worldview in front of his eyes and stands in front of the light, another person is in the middle of that light and the worldview, he is seen inside. He will take a photo as he wishes. It is a very useful tool. We tried everything: I put it on my clothes, my body was found. He stripped one of his children naked, he was seen inside. "We took out the wallet, it showed what it was ...”  


FIG. 4 - Insert photo caption: Thanks to Ms.: Carmen Perez Gonzalez

According to this report; Mirza Ebrahim Khan Bookbinder was the first to bring the X-ray machine to Iran and use it in his shop in Tehran. X-ray photography became an amazing and popular phenomenon in the early 1890s due to the lack of awareness of its harm to the human body, both in Iran and in Europe and the United States, and for many years as a hobby as well as for various non-medical applications was used. In Europe and the United States, some shoe stores also used it to check the size of customers' shoes. Some doctors also give X-rays to pregnant mothers to check the condition of the developing fetus. Of course, it is unlikely that Bookbinder used this device for medical purposes in his shop in Tehran. A veteran trader in the importation of new equipment and devices from abroad, he most likely brought the device for sale to a hospital or a place where it could be used for medical applications, as he himself said in introducing this device to Milijak. “I have brought an item that belongs to the doctors.”
But apparently after a while for this device and a few other devices, it does not find a customer and inevitably after a few more commercial failures in 1908. It will auction off its shop equipment, including an X-ray machine.  Equalization of the word "showing the stone" for the X-ray camera was very important in announcing the auction of bookbinding equipment at that time, and it emphasizes the richness of Qajar photography literature and reaffirms the issue of equalization of foreign words in Persian during the Qajar period.



Shortly before Bookbinder demonstrated how the X-ray machine worked in his shop to Milijak and a group of courtiers, Muzaffar al-Din Shah began his second trip to Europe. In the diary of his second trip, which was published after his trip to Tehran, it is reported that an X-ray camera was purchased from Berlin by order of Mozaffar al-Din Shah.
“Sunday, June1, 1902, we bought some equipment, such as the Wrangerf camera [?], which takes a photo of the body that detects internal esophageal diseases, [in Berlin].” 
The report's emphasis on the diagnosis of internal diseases by this device reveals that its buyer [Muzaffar al-Din Shah], in addition to considering its astonishing aspects in representation within human bodies, also considered its practical aspects in medicine, and probably he prepared it for this reason. In the continuation of the same report, it is mentioned that by order of the Shah, Mirza Ibrahim Khan, the photographer, also stayed in Berlin to learn how to work with the new [X-ray] camera:
“Wednesday, June 24, 1902, we also told the photographer to stay and learn [because of] the new inventive photo that was in Germany ...” 
But after returning from this trip, there is no report on the fate of these devices and the way of using them in Tehran. Only two negative photographs left from X-ray photography in Golestan Palace's album show that with these devices, albeit in a limited way and possibly other than its proper use in medical diagnosis, by Mirza Ebrahim Khan Akasbashi, has been used; however, the existence of only two X-ray photographs in the large collection of Golestan's albums is a bit strange considering the costly investment made in the purchase of these devices during the reign of Muzaffar al-Din Shah, and more photographs should have been taken this way, but so far no trace of them. Not found in the collection of Golestan Palace photo albums.


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Reports of X-ray photography during the Qajar period can also be found in other books. Mahdi Qoli Khan Hedayat (Mukhbar al-Saltanah) is one of the famous political figures of the Qajar and Pahlavi eras. He learned the art of photography and stereotyping in Germany in 1902 and spent many years as a personal and hobby photographer and experimenter in this field.  Around 1921, while critically enumerating the inventions that contributed to medical progress, he made a very brief reference to X-ray photography:
“... they get help from new devices (electricity, photos), but the progress that has been made in surgery has not been made in medicine ...” 
Mokhber-ol-Saltaneh has written a collection of poems on various philosophical, moral, religious, scientific and technological topics of the new world called Tohfeye Mokhberi, between 1914 and 1918. In this collection, poems are written in the description of photography and explanation of radioactive rays, alpha, beta, gamma and how William Roentgen realized the properties of X-rays and its effects and applications in medicine, some of which are as follows:
There are people in the world who constantly throwing away something from themselves.
The thing is named radioactive and it makes everything in physicists glorious.
Radioactivity is secondary to polymorphic materials.
Be that as it may, some of those rays pass through obstacles without defense.
What they invented in this field was branched to three parts.
They are called Alpha, Beta, and the third is called Gamma.
These three are at work in a world, sometimes they are used for diseases and sometimes for healing.
Alpha is helpless in the air.
Beta with strong energy is the speed of light in that region.
Gamma break everything because the meteor is still what it is.
It grows an X-ray and passes Asarb.
You can see it over a bowel.
He named the light X and called it X-ray.
It should also be effective in medicine, it kills you and sometimes it saves you ... " 
In the book History of the Iranian Understanding by Nazim al-Islam Kermani, while listing important inventions and works in the period of Muzaffar al-Din Shah, it is mentioned that X-ray photography invented by Roentgen was popular in the eighth year of Muzaffar al-Din Shah, 1903 in Tehran. This reference is very important to know the history of the prevalence of such photography in Iran. Nazim al-Islam Kermani has also equated a new term called "interior photo" for Roentgen or X-ray photo, which in terms of literary meaning, is a suitable word to introduce this type of photography at that time and is very valuable for considering the equation of words related to photography in Qajar period.
“Prevalence of esoteric photo [Roentgen] in Tehran in the eighth year of [Muzaffar al-Din Shah] 's reign” 
Tarbiat newspaper, the first daily and non-governmental publication in Iran, which was published in Tehran between 1896-1907, has repeatedly mentioned the invention of X-ray photography and published reports from around the world about this phenomenon and how it works. In the fifth issue of this magazine, while listing the developments of those years in Europe, it briefly mentions X-ray photography and its benefits:
“... X-rays show heart disease [patients] to doctors ...” 
In another issue of this newspaper, entitled Fath al-Futuh Elm, a description of this invention is given and the emergence of this new phenomenon in science has been expressed in great surprise. In this article, another new word called esoteric photography has been equated for this kind of photography, which expresses the scientific and practical function of this discovery, considering the literary meaning of this new discovery, and is very important in terms of equating Persian words with foreign words:
“(Fath al-Futuh Elm) recently, new sciences; has revealed many wonders and innumerable strange things, and it has discovered things that are hereditary, and if anyone had known about it before it happened, you would not have heard anything but denial.” The railroad, the telegraph, the telephone, and the like are all in this state, but now, having seen it with many eyes and ears, its strangeness is gone and it is considered as an old and fashionable issue. The issue of wireless telegraphs is relatively new, but they have all been heard, and although they have not yet arrived in our country, they are not new. Another thing, the strangeness of which is no less than what has been mentioned, if not more, is esoteric photography, that is, taking pictures of objects behind objects that are transcendent, such as taking pictures of instruments in a box or of human internal organs, and "His bones are not obstructed by flesh and skin, and this action is due to the radiation that is produced by the power of electricity and has the property of passing through opaque objects, and that ray is called X-rays because X-rays are its discoverer ...” 
In another issue of this newspaper, while describing the discovery of another ray called N, for the first time, the name of X-ray and the reason for its naming is mentioned:
“... And one of the wonders of the affairs of this ray, that like radium rays and esoteric rays; It passes through transcendental objects ... The ray of the esoteric image, which was discovered by X-rays, is called X-ray for short, and X is one of the letters of the French alphabet.” 
In another issue, while enumerating the usefulness of new discoveries, X-ray imaging and its usefulness in the medical diagnosis of the human internal organ are again mentioned:
“... or they invent a useful thing, such as an X-ray photograph that uses medical practice and shows the inside of the body to the doctor ...” 
The latest mention of X-ray photography in this newspaper is related to the news about Jazam's treatment in the Philippines by X-ray in 1905:
“... The parliament of Philippine Islands has stated that apparently the cure for the disease was obtained by X-rays, because in six months, twenty-five people have been treated and seen good results, and six people They seem to have been healed.” 
Most of the reports related to X-ray photography during the Qajar period in the mentioned sources are limited to the notes mentioned.
In 2009, the late Dr. Shahriyar Adl, who learned of my research into the history of X-ray photography, published an unfinished article for a recent article in the biography of Dr. Seyed Habib Adl, the first radiology graduates and The collector of X-ray machines for medical applications and its operation at the government hospital (later Sina) in Tehran, had collected and provided to me. These notes are very interesting for knowing how the first independent radiology department was opened in one of the most important hospitals in Tehran in the early years of the twentieth century.
Shahriyar Adl wrote in his notes:
“As I have shown in the" Cinema "article published in the Tavous magazine, the X-ray machine was in a bookbinder shop in Tehran, and in the photographs of Golestan Palace there is an example of the objects with which it was photographed and in which it is evident; so the presence of X-rays was not new; What is important is the continuous and widespread use in the medical device of Iran. Limited in medicine, from an X-ray machine at the Protestant Mission Hospital in Isfahan between 1901 and 1909; and was probably used in 1901. The machine was small and consisted of two wooden boxes stacked on top of each other. The spherical lamp was 70 cm long and about 40 cm high and wide. The device is connected to six batteries for power supply. A good photo of this device was published while an Armenian-Iranian nurse was looking at it, holding it about 20 cm from the center of the lamp, and in the caption of the photo, the use of "X-rays in Julfa Hospital" is obvious, in this case, the device was not used for photography or for seeing inside the body, and its use was very limited due to the fact that if the photo was taken in 1901 and only six years had passed since the introduction of the device in Paris.


FIG. 8

The chapter about medicine was written by her wife, Dr. A. A. Hume-Griffith (pp. 140-150) and was written in 1900-1901. He was in Isfahan and went to Kerman in 1902. He did not say anything about the use of the device, except for the few words I wrote. "Putting a photo in the book shows that the device is new and interesting and represents the latest techniques, and the lack of a description indicates that it has not been used much."
Adl in the continuation of these notes, he mentions how and when Dr. Seyed Habib Adl finished his studies in France and prepared radiological devices by him to take to Iran:
Seyyed Habibullah Adl: Born on May 12, 1890, in Tabriz - died on 28 July 1952 in Paris, buried in the Imamzadeh Abdullah in Tehran.
I found the following information from him in the library of the Paris School of Medicine in Cartier Latin:
The name of his thesis, like all the theses that have been defended at the Paris School of Medicine since the French Revolution, is in the following volume:
Tables des thèses soutenues à la Faculté de Médcine de Paris pendant l’année scolaire 1918-1919, pub Librairie littéraire et médicale Louis Arnette, Paris, 1919, p. 15:
“Habibollah ol Hosseini (Habibe), Ampoules radiogènes nouvelles et transformateurs (U)”, thèse No 296. U signifie qu’il s’agissait d’une thèse universitaire.
Note that during these years we had not yet chosen the surname Adl. Dr. Habib continued to work in France between 1919 and 1923, and in that year he returned to Iran via Baghdad and Kermanshah with radiological devices carried by several trucks, and usually opened an office and opened radiology in Iran. In the second half of 1926, while he was the commander-in-chief of Sepah Shah, he established this department in a government hospital, which did not have a radiology department until then, without any salary for him, and he worked with Dr. Amin al-Molk, who was honored. They were the only ones who did not receive a salary. “Dr. Khalil Khan Saghafi did not receive a salary either, but he received financial assistance.” 
Adl goes on to point out that: "... At this time (1926) there were three public hospitals in Tehran. One is the government hospital [the next Ibn Sina] and the other is Vaziri (of course, there were also military and military hospitals, such as the former Ahmadiye hospital, which is not mentioned in this report) and the women's hospital, which was headed by Dr. Ali Reza Khan Bahrami and Dr. Darmas Tabiba [Dr. He was in the hospital and had no other doctor.
Dr. Habib Adl was the head of the radiotherapy department, which in the annual report book, this section did not exist in the first six months of 1926 and opened in the second half and has gained equal importance to the surgical, medical and ophthalmology departments; "For example, it has not been integrated into the surgical department, and this shows that Dr. Habib Adl has been able to show the importance of this department from the very beginning, and others have understood that they understand the importance of radiology in medicine.”

Therefore, according to the writings of the late Dr. Shahriyar Adl, the first person in Iran to scientifically and widely establish the use of devices and the science of radiography and its use in medical diagnosis, is Dr. Habib Adl. Unfortunately, there are no examples of X-ray photographs taken by Dr. Habib Adl during his years of activity in Iran, but at the end of this article, a photo of a personal collection with medical applications by X-ray imaging in Tehran is presented, which shows how radiologists worked at that time. The photo was taken in Tehran by Dr. Kopeliavitch on the anatomy of the human foot. 


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