Clarence Madison Dally
Early life and education
After obtaining an honorable discharge he went to work at the Edison Lamp Works in Harrison with his father and brothers as a glassblower. Around 1890 he moved to the Edison Laboratory in West Orange to assist in experiments with the incandescent lamp.
Edison X-ray focus tube
Following Röntgen's work on X-rays in 1895, Clarence and his brother Charles worked on the development of the Edison X-ray focus tube, developing the fluoroscope using calcium tungstate. The Edison fluoroscope produced sharper images than the Röntgen fluoroscope, which used barium platinocyanide. At the time, the levels of X-rays produced were not believed to be dangerous. However, Edison noted how "the x-ray had affected poisonously my assistant, Mr. Dally."
By 1900, Clarence Dally was suffering radiation damage to his hands and face sufficient to require time off work. In 1902, one lesion on his left wrist was treated unsuccessfully with multiple skin grafts and eventually his left hand was amputated. An ulceration on his right hand necessitated the amputation of four fingers.
These procedures failed to halt the progression of his carcinoma, and despite the amputation of his arms at the elbow and shoulder, he died from mediastinal cancer. Dally is thought to be the first American to die from the effects of experimentation with radiation. Following this, Thomas Edison abandoned his research on X-rays. In 1903, a shaken Edison said "Don't talk to me about X-rays, I am afraid of them."
- Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library: "Edison Fears the Hidden Perils of the X-Rays", New York World, August 3, 1903, Durham, NC.
- Brown, Percy (1995) . "American Martyrs to the Roentgen Rays". American Journal of Roentgenology.
- "Edison fears hidden perils of the x-rays", New York World, Monday, August 3, 1903, page 1
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