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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.  


The Big Bang

13.7 billion years ago


The Big Bang Theory is the scientific model for the origin of the universe, it was born out of the observation that other galaxies are moving away from our own at great speed as if propelled by an explosive force. The theory states that about 13.7 billion years ago all the matter and radiation of the observable universe was compressed into a hot, dense mass just a few millimetres across. This state is theorised to have existed for just a fraction of the first second of time after which a massive blast allowed all the universe's matter and energy to escape. In the instant (a trillion trillionth of a second) after the Big Bang the universe expanded from a few millimetres to something astronomically vast and has continued to expand , though more slowly in the billions of years since. Cosmic microwave background radiation received from all parts of the universe is thought to be the heat left over from the original explosion.        


The Creation of Stars and Galaxies

13.7- 4.6 billion years ago


In the first moments after the Big Bang, the universe was extremely hot and dense. As it cooled, conditions gave rise to the building blocks of matter, quarks and electrons. A few millionths of a second later, quarks aggregated to produce protons and neutrons and in minutes these protons and neutrons combined into nuclei. As the universe continued to expand and cool, things slowed down and it took 380,000 years before atoms were formed when electrons were trapped in orbits around nuclei. These atoms were mainly helium and hydrogen, still the most common elements in existence. In the following  half-billion years, clumps of gas collapsed enough to form the first stars and galaxies. In the hearts of these stars elements like iron, carbon and oxygen are produced which are then seeded throughout the universe following explosions called supernovae. A little after 9 billion years after the Big Bang, our solar system was born. We are currently finding out more about the invisible as well as the visible universe, through agencies like NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and CERN ( European Organisation for Nuclear Research) who investigate phenomena like dark matter which does not emit any electromagnetic radiation and dark energy, comprising a huge part of the universe that we can only detect through its effects.