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The Cost of a Splendid Little War


The discovery of the x-ray in 1895 by William Roentgen revolutionized military medicine. Bullets could now be found without probing the wound with fingers or a metal shaft. This greatly reduced the risk of infection as well. During the war, the hospital ships Relief, Bay State and Missouri had x-ray SAW89_thb machines but none were used at the hospitals on the islands. The equipment was considered too bulky and fragile to be used at the front especially as bullet wounds were now realized to be fairly disease-free (aseptic) and so might not need immediate treatment.

The x-ray made standard metal probes and experimental sound probes obsolete. A current would run from a small generator to an x-ray tube. The tube consisted of a platinum electrode in a vacuum. Electricity running to the electrode generated x-rays which dispersed in all directions, but mostly were focussed through the patient and onto a photographic negative, which was developed to view the location of the bullet. xray_head xray_hnd