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Alfred Caleb Taylor and the First X Ray Machine...



Alfred Caleb Taylor was born in Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire in 1861 and came to Peterborough aged ten. He worked at the Peterborough Infirmary on Priestgate from 1880 as a dispenser. He also served as Secretary of the Infirmary from 1889 until his retirement in 1926. Mr Taylor had a keen interest in photography and chaired the Peterborough Photographic Society. This carried over into an interest in X-rays being an early advocate of X-ray technology. In 1896 he designed and built his own equipment under the stairs in the infirmary. This device, the first X-ray machine in the United Kingdom outside London, was powered by accumulators. They were recharged at a local flour mill as there was no public electricity supply at that time. When an electricity supply was available in Peterborough, Mr Harry Cox, from London, was consulted regarding a larger installation. Many people made donations towards the new x-ray apparatus; Mr Andrew Carnegie, Peterborough’s first Freeman kindly donated £125 towards the installation.  As with the photography of the time the images produced by the X-ray machines were positives rather than negatives.


As the science of radiography was so new, the danger of exposure to X-rays was unknown.  Taylor worked with the x-rays so often, that it badly affected his health.  He contracted radiation poisoning resulting in the loss of four fingers, three on the left hand and one on the right. Despite this he never expressed any regrets and said, “I have only done my duty, and if I have sacrificed bits of my fingers so that I am not able to tie up my shoes laces, I feel I have been compensated, for I have loved the x-ray work and its excitements. For all the trouble I had at the beginning I have been more than compensated by your appreciation, and although I have lost bits of fingers, I would still do the same if I had my life to come again.” Alfred Caleb Taylor died on the 6th of July 1927, a pioneer and martyr.  


Peterborough Free Library Opens



Dr. Thomas J Walker, a prominent local member of the medical profession, was instrumental in persuading the City Council to establish a Public Library. As a consequence, the Peterborough Free Library opened on April 10th 1893 in the Fitzwilliam Hall, Park Road. The Hall began life in 1872 as a venue for entertainment, and later became known as “The Empire”. It was sited just north of the present Central Library. Applications for membership could be made on the opening day, but the first books were not actually issued until the following Thursday. Membership application was slow to begin with – apparently the opening of the library was not very well advertised in the local press. The first librarian was Mr. L Stanley Jastrzebski, who later became President of the Library Association. The library contained two sections; one for adults and one for children. The Dewey system of classification was adopted from the onset for cataloguing the books. (Mr. Melvill Dewey was Director of New York State Library.) This library was replaced in 1906 by a purpose-built library funded by the Scots-American philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. References:
  1. Peterborough Standard, April 1893.
2. Peterborough Standard, August 1903. 3. Peterborough Standard, June 1906 4. Peterborough Advertiser, April 1893. 5. Peterborough Advertiser, June 1906.