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Hughturvey XOGRAM Handshake2006 Allrightsreserved Nographic Rpsversiondenoise
CREDIT: Hugh Turvey HonFRPS

Hugh Turvey reveals how he made an X-ray handshake

Why the RPS Honorary Fellow’s X-ray image resonates during a pandemic

‘Xogram handshake’, 2006, by Hugh Turvey HonFRPS


The RPS Honorary Fellow Hugh Turvey made this image as artist in residence at the British Institute of Radiology in London. As X-ray technology celebrates its 125th anniversary, Turvey here explains how he made it.

The image is an Xogram, created with X-rays and a large sheet of X-ray sensitive black-and-white photographic film, which was subsequently hand-coloured. Conceived long before the outbreak of Covid-19, the image seems especially apt at a time when close contact is less possible than before.

“As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the physical handshake may be currently synonymous with contagion,” says Turvey, “but seeing a handshake in X-ray evokes more than the traditional symbolism of this simple gesture. It is free of gender, race, political or religious bias.

Hughturvey XOGRAM X Mas2012 Allrightsreserved Nographic Rpsversion
CREDIT: Hugh Turvey HonFRPS

'X-mas', 2012, by Hugh Turvey HonFRPS

“This image has taken on new meaning for me during recent global lockdown events and affirms hope on many levels. It will be a momentous day when we shake hands again.”

German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen first discovered shortwave electromagnetic radiation on 8 December 1895, making the first medical X-ray, showing the hand of his wife Anna Bertha Ludwig. A few weeks after, on 21 January 1896, James Gifford, a business owner, amateur scientist and keen photographer, gave a presentation at the Royal Photographic Society in London on the newly discovered X-ray technology. One of his X-ray images, again showing a hand – a symbol of humanity that resonates through the centuries – was reproduced in the RPS Journal.

In 1896, pioneering radiologist John Macintyre set up the world’s first X-ray unit, at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, where the technology was used in the diagnosis and treatment of injuries and illness.


Find out more about the discovery of X-ray technology in the January/February 2021 issue of the RPS Journal

First Medical X Ray By Wilhelm Röntgen Of His Wife Anna Bertha Ludwig's Hand 1895 Wiki Commons
CREDIT: Hugh Turvey HonFRPS

A print of the first X-ray, by Wilhelm Röntgen, 1895, shows the hand of his wife Anna Bertha Ludwig. Public domain / Wikimedia Commons


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