By Joseph Conn
Visitors to the Radiological Society of North America's annual bash in Chicago starting Nov. 28 will have much to see besides the show -- the Christmas lights on Michigan Avenue, a last look at the Chicago Sun-Times building before it gives way to Donald Trump's latest skyscraper and possibly the first horizontal sleet of the season.
But if radiologists and vendors want a busman's holiday, the International Museum of Surgical Science probably has just the ticket. And it's only a quick cab ride up Lake Shore Drive from the show at McCormick Place's convention center.
On Dec. 1, the museum will open "Milestones in Medical Imaging: From X-Ray to Nuclear Medicine," billed as an exhibit that will "interpret the fascinating story of the pioneers and the progress in over a century of medical imaging, from X-ray to ultrasound, CAT, MRI and beyond." The exhibit includes prints, drawings, photographs, and electrical apparatus and image-producing equipment. Museum curator Leonard Kliwinski said the bulk of the exhibit items are from the collection of Chicago radiologist Emil Grubbe, M.D.
Radiologists all know that German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen made his landmark discovery of the X-ray in 1895. Grubbe entered Hahnemann Medical College in Chicago that same year, according to a Chicago Radiological Society biography, and became fascinated with Roentgen's discovery. Within months, Grubbe began experimenting with his own vacuum discharge tube. In 1896, while still in medical school, the 21-year-old opened the first radiation therapy center in the city, perhaps the world. Grubbe remained active in therapeutic radiology until his retirement in 1947.
"Through his early work, he collected the whole early technology and equipment," Kliwinski said. In 1958, Grubbe donated much of his collection to the museum.
Grubbe, who suffered throughout his career from malignancies most likely caused from early exposure to radiation, died in 1960 as the result of multiple squamous carcinomas with metastasis, according to the biography.
The Grubbe collection was augmented by donations from various sources over the past year to round out the exhibit, Kliwinski said.
"It's broken down into eight sections, and there is a whole section that recreates a 19th-century X-ray laboratory," he said. "A couple of years ago, they had all the artifacts checked to make sure there were no residual effects. Hopefully, nobody will plug anything in."
An opening night reception for the exhibit will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Dec. 1 at the museum, 1524 N. Lake Shore Drive. Museum hours the rest of the week through Dec. 4 are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The RSNA show runs Nov. 28 to Dec. 3.