05-03-2005 05-04-2005
Skinner Auctions
Skinner Auctions Bolton MA
May 3, 2005 10:00AMCalender

Edison Fluoroscope No. 588

Auction: Clocks, Watches & Scientific Instruments - 2283 Location: Bolton Date / Time: May 03, 2005 10:00AM


Edison Fluoroscope No. 588, with tapering leather-covered wood body, rear 4 1/2 x 6 1/2-inch ground-glass screen, viewing hood with felt eye-pad, and turned wood handle, lg. 9 in.; and a Look Parallax Panoramagram (three-dimensional photograph) showing a bust of Thomas Edison surrounded by five of his key inventions: the electric lamp, stock-ticker, motion-picture projector, phonograph and fluoroscope.

Note: Within weeks of Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen publishing his report "On a New Kind of Rays" on December 28th 1895, the news of his discovery of X-rays had spread around the world. In 1896, Thomas Edison, realizing the potential medical uses, began work on the fluoroscope as a means of viewing X-ray images. Edison's invention featured a hand-held leather-covered box resembling a contemporary stereoscope, with a viewing screen made out of tungstate of calcium (replaced on this example with ground-glass). Unusually, Edison chose not to patent his device, preferring to leave it in the public domain for immediate medical application; the fluoroscope was soon put to use by surgeons performing the first X-ray operations in America.

Unfortunately this new radiation had other effects on the people who experimented with it. The electrical engineer Elihu Thomson deliberately exposed one of his fingers to X-rays in order to observe the resultant burns. Edison's assistant Clarence Dally was also affected and eventually died as a result of radiation. Maybe it was as a result of these and other early casualties that few examples of the Edison fluoroscope are thought to have survived.
Estimate $3,000-4,000


Thomas Edison, X-ray, Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen, electrical engineer , Elihu Thomson, burns, Clarence Dally, Edison's assistant