Bucky vs. Potter

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Potter-Bucky diaphragm used in radiology

The war in Europe increasingly enabled the United States to take the initiative in the area of X-ray innovations. The versatile German inventor Gustav Bucky discovered this to his detriment.

In 1913, Bucky had devised a method to clarify and increase the contrast of X-ray images. He added two leaden grids to the X-ray set-up (the Bucky diaphragm or Bucky grid), one between the tube and the patient, and the other between the patient and the photographic plate. The grids only allowed the 'primary' radiation, emitted by the tube, to pass through, preventing the ‘secondary’ radiation from contaminating the X-ray image. ‘Secondary’ radiation was a residue caused when ‘primary’ radiation collided with body tissue.

With his grid, Bucky continued the pioneering work of other German researchers like Heinrich Albers-Schönberg. Somewhat surprisingly, by the early 1920s the Bucky grid had not found its way onto the X-ray market.

In the United States, however, Hollis E. Potter had eagerly started working with Bucky’s ideas during the war and improved them. By moving the grids during the shooting, Potter discovered, the grids became invisible on the X-ray image.

The United States enthusiastically welcomed the Potter–Bucky diaphragm, with Potter receiving most of the credit. Bucky, who had even moved to the United States in 1923, had essentially already thought of that same innovation, although the war had prevented him from perfecting the moving diaphragm.

How to cite this page


Ad Maas, 'Bucky vs. Potter ', Inventing Europe, http://www.inventingeurope.eu/philips/bucky-vs-potter


  1. D. H. Kevles, Naked to the bone: Medical imaging in the twentieth century (New Brunswick 1997) 65-66.

This tour is related to the temporary Exhibition in the Boerhaave Museum



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X-ray wins World War I

The large-scale use of X-ray during the First World War meant that the new technology was standard practice in regular medicine after the war. The war inspired new applications, such as the radiographic examination of lung diseases, and prompted new American and European producers to reallocate the X-ray market after 1918, sharpening transnational competition.



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Radiology over time

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