X-ray plant for a radiology practice, used by Dr D.G. Maitland, manufactured by Victor X-ray Corporation, Chicago, USA, Bell & Kindred X-ray & Mechanical Engineers, Sydney, Australia, W.Watson & Sons, Australia, 1933-1975
When acquired in 1978 this set of equipment was described as a 'radiologist's X-ray plant'. It was dismantled from the practice of Sydney radiologist Dr D.G. Maitland and is remarkable for its relative completeness. The oldest parts of the unit date from the 1930s but it appears to have been used by Dr Maitland well into the 1970s. With this equipment the doctor would have been able to take X-ray photographs of various parts of a patient's body, or visually examine a patient's internal organs on a fluoroscope - where the X-ray image shows up on a fluorescent screen.
A set of photographs taken in the doctor's rooms before the equipment was dismantled shows just how it looked when in use. In more recent times it is usual for the working parts of medical imaging equipment to be hidden inside cabinetry, but with this equipment from the 1930s everything is exposed, except for the huge oil-filled transformer that converts the power supply to the necessary high voltage. This is behind a partition in one corner of the room. Heavy cables snake across the floor from the transformer to the control unit where the doctor stands; an overhead system suspended from the ceiling carries the current to the different pieces of equipment - a curved X-ray table where patients would lie with the X-ray tube suspended above them, or the upright adjustable fluoroscope where patients would stand, again with the X-ray tube and its cooling fins exposed.
The plant comprises equipment from several overseas and local manufacturers, all of them important in their time - the Victor Corporation in the USA, W.Watson & Sons, and Bell & Kindred. W.Watson & Sons began as an Australian offshoot of a 19th century British manufacturer of scientific instruments. Based in Melbourne and Sydney, by the early 1900s this company was importing X-ray equipment from large overseas companies such as the Victor Corporation and General Electric. In 1921 W.Watson & Sons itself commenced manufacturing X-ray equipment and for a time is said to have been the largest single manufacturer of X-ray imaging devices in the British Empire. The company Bell & Kindred was established in Sydney in 1942 and became widely known for its expertise in servicing X-ray equipment.
Jerman, Ed.C., Modern X-ray Technic, Saint Paul, Minneapolis: Bruce Publishing Company, 1928.
Powerhouse Museum correspondence file 78/1091 'A', 1978.
Ryan, James, Sutton, Keith, & Baigent, Malcolm, Australasian radiology: a history, Sydney: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1996.
Curator of health and medicine
It has been possible to identify the manufacturers of the major parts of equipment in this unit from makers' plates and annotations on the equipment itself. The X-ray table and the upright fluoroscope were manufactured by Victor X-ray Corporation, Chicago, USA in 1933. The upright fluoroscope stand was manufactured by Bell & Kindred X-ray and Electromechanical Engineers, Sydney. The high-tension transformer unit, 'Split Core Quadrail' Serial No. SPQ140, was manufactured by W.Watson & Sons, Australia, in 1933. The control unit with gravity timer was also manufactured by W.Watson & Sons, but the timer was replaced in 1975. The complete unit would have been installed by one of the local manufacturers and suppliers of X-ray equipment.
At the time of its acquisition the equipment was dated as 'c. 1927' perhaps based on information relating to its owner, Dr D.G. Maitland. However, dates on the equipment indicate that it (or much of it) was manufactured in 1933.
According to the museum's correspondence files, this set of equipment is from the estate of Dr D.G. Maitland, a Sydney radiologist. Before being dismantled for transport to the museum, it was tested and found to be in working order. The donation was arranged by the executor of Dr Maitland's estate, Mr Oscar J. Peters, a registered public accountant. According to Mr Peters, the equipment had been serviced for some years by Mr J. Koop of Killarney Heights (Sydney).
In 1998 the Powerhouse consulted Mr Roger de Fries who had worked in medical imaging servicing and sales from 1950 to 1997. Mr de Fries has frequently assisted the museum in identifying and documenting X-ray equipment. With his knowledge and together with the information available from makers' plates and paper documentation accompanying this donation, it was possible to identify each of the elements of this extensive X-ray setup, name them and assign sub-numbers. It was Mr de Fries who suggested that a proper descriptor for the setup was 'universal fluoroscopy and radiography unit'. Mr de Fries also recognised that a set of black and white photographs, which had been mistakenly filed in the Blue File for object number K483, were actually photographs of the complete X-ray plant (K212) in situ in the doctor's rooms. Each of these seven photographs had been hand-annotated on the reverse '78/SM:133'. They have now been transferred to the Blue File for K212.
The unit would have been in use from 1933 to at least 1975 when we know (from annotations on the equipment itself) that a timer on the control unit was replaced. It was donated to the museum in 1978 following the death of Dr Maitland.
Powerhouse Museum correspondence file 78/1091 'A'