See the Harrowing Effects of Radiation in the 1900s

Clarence Madison Dally dedicated his life - and body - science. See this shocking photo of the physical effects of his studies on his body.
Clarence Madison Dally Hand

As hard as it is to imagine, this is a real person’s hand. Specifically, this is the hand of X-ray technician Clarence Madison Dally. Clarence worked around X-Rays in their early days of development. Because of this, he was around massive amounts of radiation exposure.

So, how and why did his hand become so deeply decayed and damaged? Let’s dive in!

How Clarence Had His Hands Damaged

Clarence Madison Dally, born in 1865, was born to a family of glassblowers who worked for Edison Lamp Works. Clarence worked with his family after serving in the Navy for six years. He later went on to work as an assistant for Thomas Edison on incandescent lamp and X-ray experiments.

He was working as an X-ray technician when X-rays were an entirely new concept. At the time, people did not know the dangerous effects of massive amounts of exposure radiation on the body. Repeat and excessive radiation exposure from testing lead to Clarence developing cancer and significant radiation damage to his hands and face. 

What Happened to Clarence Madison Dally?

In an effort to stop the cancer and save his life, Clarence had both his arms amputated. These efforts were unsuccessful, as Clarence later died from cancer. As science has evolved, we have become more aware of the harmfulness of radiation and X-rays. We have also learned to limit our exposure and better protect ourselves. Because of his efforts and experimentation, Dally is thought to be the “first American to die from the effects of experimentation with radiation.” 

The Legacy of Clarence Madison Dally

Because of Clarence and his life’s work, we learned more about the dangers of X-rays and have made strides to protect ourselves.

Fast-forward to 2022, we know that excessive exposure to radiation has enough energy in it to cause damage to our DNA and cause cancer. This doesn’t just affect doctors and scientists. Anyone who gets an X-ray or a CT scan is exposing them to a set amount of radiation. 

Also, interestingly enough, when you are diagnosed with cancer you can undergo chemotherapy and radiation therapy to kill the cancer in your body. Depending on which stage of cancer and how aggressive a form it is, the doctor will recommend an appropriate treatment. But in some instances to stop the cancer that is destroying your body you have to expose your body to radiation. We now know that radiation can also lead to a second cancer growing and long term health issues. 

While doctors and the medical field have long advanced from the days of Clarence Madison Dally, we still have a lot of work to do in terms of combatting terminal diseases and radiation exposure.

Like learning about historical photos? Check out the story behind this electrifying photo!

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