Monday, August 3, 1903, page 1
OF THE X-RAYS.
Abandoned Search for Fluo-
Lamp, Finding His
Sight Deranged by
LOSES HAND AND ARM.
is Reduced to
Pitiable State by Imprudent
That loss of sight,
cancerous disease and even death may come to him who is constantly exposed
to or inexperienced in the use of Roentgen rays has been demonstrated
in a pitiable manner in the laboratory of Thomas A. Edison at Orange,
N.J. Clarence Dally, an assistant to the "Wizard of Menlo Park,"
has contributed an arm and a hand to this demonstration, while Mr. Edison
himself suffers from the disturbed focus of one of his eyes through experiments
with this mysterious light in an endeavor to find for it some commercial
This chief sufferer, Dally, who has a wife
and two boys to take care of, is left to depend entirely upon the generosity
of Mr. Edison, in which interest, supplemented by an enthusiastic desire
to delve deeper in that mysterious force which brings to view objects
concealed in solid matter, he has been incapacitated from taking up the
life burdens and duties that usually fall to a man.
The story of Clarence Dally is best told by Dr.
W.B. Graves, one of the leading surgeons of New Jersey, who was seen by
a World representative in his cottage on Main Street, East Orange, yesterday
"Clarence Dally came to me nearly seven years
ago," said Dr. Graves, "and I wish to say in the beginning that
I regard him a martyr to science. He is so regarded by the medical profession
generally, for not one cent has ever been charged him for either surgical
or medical services. He presents to science a pitiable object-lesson of
the dangers of inexperienced or continuous experiments with X-rays, and
his sufferings have done more to bring to professional notice a correct
knowledge of things to be avoided than anything else in the history of
scientific research upon this subject.
Had Been Chief Gunner's
"Dally was a wiry chap, as hard as nails; a little
fellow, but a specimen of perfect manhood when he left the United States
Navy, in which he had been a chief gunner's mate, to take up the practical
study of X-rays, because they fascinated him. When he came to me seven
years ago it was because his regular physician thought he needed the services
of a surgeon. He had been following his hobby enthusiastically and had
been testing tubes in the Edison laboratory, exposing himself to the forcible
light with an utter disregard to himself.
"In the beginning his hair begun to
fall out and his face began to wrinkle. Then dermatitis, or inflammation
of the skin, set in, and manifested itself in a sore on the back of his
left hand. This was caused, he told me by placing it between the fluoroscope
and the X-ray tube, in order that the latter might be thoroughly tested,
or perhaps by the light falling upon his hand as it passed the flange
of the instrument as he held it. There was no sensation of acute pain,
only a soreness and a numbness. In other words, he had used his own person
continuously to test the tubes.
"He was doctored carefully with a view
to curing the skin disease upon the back of his hand, but it grew worse
instead of better, all the methods of treatment failing to influence it.
Then arterio sclerosis, or a thickening or hardening of the arteries set
in, and this extended even to the most minute blood vessel in his arm.
"There was no paralysis, but the drying
up of the blood vessels took away the nourishment from the tissue and
prevented the sore on his left hand from healing. The right hand was also
affected, even to the finger tips, but it was not in such a serious condition
as the left.
"The trouble in his left hand finally
developed into a skin cancer, and the whole arm, away up above the elbow,
and well into the biceps, was affected. There was a consultation of physicians,
and it was agreed that he must be operated upon at once or the poisonous
cancer would place his life in jeopardy. This was after five years treatment,
with the very best medical advice obtainable, in an endeavor to save his
"Two years ago this arm was amputated.
The operation was performed by Dr. Lloyd, of the Post Graduate Medical
School, which operation I attended. The amputation was about three inches
below the shoulder, all above that being healthy.
"I then turned my attention to the
right arm, with a view to saving it, but it began to manifest the same
disposition as the amputated arm, and a short time ago I took off four
of Dally's fingers, so that now he has but one thumb on one hand with
which to earn his livelihood. It is impossible for him to work, and he
must live on the bounty of Mr. Edison or starve.
"I do not think there is further danger
to be apprehended, unless he pursues his X-ray experiments in some other
direction. He is an enthusiast upon the subject.
"Dally's case has told science that
the continuous exposure of any part of the human anatomy to the influence
of the X rays is deadly to the part so exposed. Of course, it does not
interfere with the use of the light for medical purposes when it is handled
by experienced persons, but it is not a thing to be trifled with. Under
proper care it is of great use.
"I dressed Dally's hand yesterday,
just before he started away on his two weeks' vacation, and it is healing
Treated Dally Years Ago.
Dr. F.B. Lane, of No. 31 Halstead street,
East Orange, who was Dally's physician prior to the turning over of his
case to the surgeons, contributed some interesting information regarding
the cause of the student's affliction.
"I turned Dally over to Dr. Graves,"
said he, "because I thought he needed a surgeon. There was a cancerous
formation on his left hand that I thought needed a knife. How was it caused?
It was burned. Dally was, among other things, a glass-blower, and he made
the bulbs for the X-ray tubes used in the Edison laboratory. He tested
them too, and he tested them by placing his hand between the fluoroscope
and the light. He did this continuously, day after day, until he simply
burned up the blood vessels in his hand.
"He would have been dead now if I
had not sent him to Dr. Graves and if the operation had not been performed.
He has been one of the greatest sufferers I ever saw.
"Dally made a hobby of X-rays. When
Edison set up his machines in the Crystal Palace, Dally did the mechanical
work. And then he put his head up in front of the light in order that
people might look through it. The result was that his hair and mustache
Another sufferer from the use of X-rays,
Mr. Edison, himself, was seen at his home in Llewellyn Park, Orange, by
a World reporter and asked to tell the story of the experiment which disabled
Dally and came near making Mr. Edison sightless.
Fears the Rays.
"Don't talk to me about X-rays,"
he said. "I am afraid of them. I stopped experimenting with them
two years ago, when I came near to losing my eyesight and Dally, my assistant
practically lost the use of both of his arms. I am afraid of radium and
polonium too, and I don't want to monkey with them.
"Up to two years ago, I was deeply
interested in X-rays. I used the fluoroscope which I inventeda pyramidal
scope with one open end, the smaller and larger closed end, the covering
being a chemical sheet against which the object to be examined is placed,
the rays being focused upon it. I was making experiments in a dark room
that I had constructed in one end of the laboratory. I was looking for
an improved crystal, and there was daily results that fascinated me and
kept my eye glued to the fluoroscope virtually all the time.
"I used my left eye, and one day when
I came out of the dark room and closed my right eye for a moment everything
looked double. I hastened to an oculist, who said that my eye was something
over a foot out of focus. It is still imperfect, and I do not think that
it will ever be entirely well.
"When I noticed the effect upon my
eye I cautioned Dally. I told him that there was a danger in the continuous
use of the tubes, but he persisted because he was so enthusiastic upon
the subject. The only thing that saved my eyesight was that I used a very
weak tube, while Dally insisted in using the most powerful one he could
"The box of the fluoroscope only partially
covered his face, so that the light fell upon his hair and made it fall
out -- that is: what was left of it after exposing his head to the light
in a reckless way to illustrate its power. Part of his hand and arm were
exposed to the action of the light.
Keep Him on Payroll.
"I am keeping him on the payroll,
although he is not able to do any work, and I expect to take care of him
as long as he lives. I have sent him away on a vacation to Woodbridge,
N.J., where the change may do him good."
"Speaking of radium, Mr. Edison, what
is your opinion of it?" asked the World reporter.
"I have had several pieces of it from
Mme. Curie in Paris, and I have experimented with it. I do not see its
commercial utility, but it opens up a great field of thought and scientific
research. It overturns all the old theories of force and energy and has
set scientists to thinking. Do I believe that it is the solution of perpetual
motion? No, I have a peculiar theory about radium, and I believe it is
the correct one.
"I believe that there is some mysterious
ray pervading the universe that is fluorescing to it. In other words,
that all its energy is not self-constructed but that there is a mysterious
something in the atmosphere that scientists have not found that is drawing
out those infinitesimal atoms and distributing them forcefully and indestructibly."
"Did you ever find any commercial
utility in the X-rays, or radium?"
for Fluorescent Lamp.
"My researches, I might as well tell you
now that I have abandoned them, were in the direction of making a fluorescent
lamp. I obtained results which brought me each day nearer to the object
of my desire. I found a crystal that was fluorescing 12,000 times, and
I thought I had my lamp. Then came the question of practical use. I could
make the lamp all right, but when I did so I found that it would kill
everybody who would use it continuously.
"No, I did not want to know anything
more about X-rays. In the hands of experienced operators they are a valuable
adjunct to surgery, locating as then do objects concealed from view, and
making, for instance, the operation for appendicitis almost sure. But
they are dangerous, deadly, in the hands of inexperienced, or even in
the hands of a man who is using them continuously for experiment. There
are two pretty good object-lessons of this fact to be found in the Oranges."
Transcribed by Mark Maier, University
of South Carolina.
WIZARD EDISON AND EMPLOYEE
INJURED BY X-RAYS AND FLUOROSCOPE,
WHICH ALMOST COST DALLY'S LIFE.
"...placing [his hand] between the fluoroscope
and the X-ray tube...."