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Topekan led move to use of X-rays

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Feb. 15, 2010, at 10:34 a.m.
  • Updated Monday, Feb. 15, 2010, at 11:01 a.m.

This is one in a series of vignettes celebrating history. The series’ name comes from the state motto, Ad astra per aspera: “To the stars through difficulties.”

Next time you break a bone and the doctor sends you to radiology, thank a Kansan: Eddy Clifford Jerman.

Although he did not invent or discover X-rays — that was Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen in 1895 in Germany — Jerman is best known for having promoted the technology and trained doctors in its use throughout North America and eventually the world.

According to the journal Radiologic Technology published by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists, the Topekan should be given much credit:

“During the first year after Roentgen’s discovery, several books and nearly one thousand scientific papers were published on x-rays. Among those who began a new career in x-rays in the wake of Roentgen’s . . . was an American involved in the manufacture of electrotherapeutic devices, Ed C. Jerman.”

After learning of Roentgen’s discovery, Jerman built his own X-ray machine.

He produced a radiograph of his hand — clear enough to show the bones.

Jerman wrote of his machine:

“The exposure was of my own left hand, and was of 30 minutes duration, the hand being bound down with electrical tape to prevent movement during the exposure.”

Jerman began not only promoting X-ray machines, he wrote the industry standards for the field and a textbook for student technicians.

In 1916, Jerman began teaching doctors and their staffs how to use X-ray equipment, often using his own body as a demonstration.

He worked for the Victor X- ray Corp., a division of General Electric.

Jerman became a charter member of the American Roentgen Ray Society and was a co-founder of the American Society of X-Ray Technicians.

He also served eight years as an examiner for the organization’s American registry board.

During the 1920s, Jerman became interested in soft-tissue radiography, particularly as it applied to botany, zoology and paleontology. In 1925, he did a research project for the Field Museum of Natural History in which he X-rayed Egyptian and Peruvian mummies.

Then, in 1934, Jerman retired to Winfield after a career lasting nearly four decades.

Within two years, Jerman was dead from X-ray-related complications.

Jerman died Sept. 13, 1936.

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com.

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