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Images that changed the world. Parts 1-5.

  • Lythgoe, Mark.
  • Audio

About this work


Presented by Dr Mark Lythgoe, this series traces the history of medical imaging. Lythgoe argues that medical imaging has had just as an important impact as artistic or historical images on our culture.


London : BBC Radio 4, 2010.

Physical description

1 CD (60 mins.)


Part 1 broadcast on 25th January 2010, part 2 broadcast on 26th January 2010, part 3 broadcast on 27th January 2010, part 4 broadcast on 28th January 2010 and part 5 broadcast on 29th January 2010.

Creator/production credits

Produced by Michelle Martin (parts 1-2) and Erika Wright (parts 3-5).


Part 1; X-Ray. Dr Mark Lythgoe presents part one of this series. 1895 saw the first ever x-ray which rapidly became a sensation in its own time. The history of radiography is described; it became a discipline only after the widespread use as a popular sideshow in for example, US department stores, at the turn of the twentieth century. Radiography was also a highly dangerous occupation, the high doses of radiation meant that many of the pioneers experienced cancers due to continuous exposure. Time start: 00:00:00:00 Time end: 00:13:41:00 Length: 00:13:41:00
Part 2; Brain Scan. Dr Mark Lythgoe presents part two of this series. The recent development of the MRI scan has led to a greater understanding of the brain and consciousness. (FMRI is functional magnetic resonsance imaging). Lythgoe visits Professor Peter Morris at the MRI Centre in Nottingham. Morris recollects the first full body scan which was considered to be a risky exercise for the subject. The first image which entered popular imagination was a scan of a lemon which then subsequently appeared on the front cover of the publication 'Nature'. Unfortunately, some of the interpretations of brain imaging in popular culture are felt to be reductive. Time start: 00:00:00:00 Time end: 00:13:22:00 Length: 00:13:22:00
Part 3; Ultrasound. Dr Mark Lythgoe presents part three of this series. The history of foetal ultrasound is discussed together with the emotional impact for the parents-to-be. Sonar technology was developed as a result of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and this is the starting point for ultrasound technology. From the 1950s Professor Ian Donald developed the technology so that today, everyone under 50 will have experienced an ultrasound. Abortion is discussed; the 'humanity' of the baby (sucking its thumb, for example) can be viewed using ultrasound technology from 18 weeks. Time start: 00:00:00:00 Time end: 00:13:35:00 Length: 00:13:35:00
Part 4; Microscopy. Dr Mark Lythgoe presents part four of this series. This programme looks at one of the oldest imaging techniques. Lythgoe discusses the iconic image of medical authority - the scientist peering down a microscope. Lythgoe visits the Diamond Light synchrotron which is the size of 5 football pitches and talks to Trevor Raymond, Director of Medical Sciences. Images of scientists at work creep into popular culture - Lythgoe studies an advertising campaign by Cadbury's which uses the iconography of the scientist and microscope with Dr Tilli Tansey. Lythgoe talks to the writer A. S. Byatt who reads from her work. Lythgoe returns to the Diamond synchroton and learns about how this technology can be accessed remotely. Microscopy imaging in the future may be developed along the lines of 'adding chemistry' - the means to annotate the image by identifying good or bad cells. Time start: 00:00:00:00 Time end: 00:13:31:00 Length: 00:13:31:00
Part 5; The Double Helix. Dr Mark Lythgoe presents part five of this series. The famous double helix is discussed. Helen Wakely, archivist from the Wellcome Library, describes examples of the iconic image which are in the collection. Dr Tilli Tansey comments on the provenance of the image itself. Thriller and historical writer also Sarah Dunnant contributes. Architect Ken Shuttleworth argues that the helix influenced architectural thinking, particularly the slight asymmetry mirrored from nature. In popular culture, the DNA helix has become a symbol of the bastion of truth in the courtroom. Lythgoe summarises what he has learnt about the images described in the series. Time start: 00:00:00:00 Time end: 00:13:38:00 Length: 00:13:38:00

Language note

In English.



  • English

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