Members only

This is a member's only video, please login to watch.

Watch Now

To watch this video for free, become a member today!

Join Us

Back to Video List

Silvanus Thompson: what one fool can do, another can 01 Aug 2016

BIR proudly presents this video to mark 100 years since the birth of Silvanus P Thomas, the first president of BIR. Silvanus Thompson was born to a Quaker family in 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition. This was a time of rapid scientific advancement. He died 100 years ago in 1916. On Friday 11th February 1876 he heard Sir William Crookes give a Friday evening discourse at the Royal Institution on The Mechanical Action of Light when Crookes demonstrated his radiometer. Thompson was intrigued and developed a major interest in optics (his other major interest being electromagnetism). In 1876 he was appointed as a lecturer in physics at University College in Bristol, being made Professor in 1878 at the age of 27. Thompson repeated Röntgens experiments on the day after the discovery was announced in the UK and gave the first public demonstration of the new rays at the Clinical Society of London on March 30th 1896. He was the first President of the Röntgen Society that became the British Institute of Radiology. He described the society as being between medicine, physics and photography. It was his genius that put its stamp on that society and has made it into the rich amalgam of medical, scientific and professional members that it is today. 

Learning Objectives:
  1. To be aware of the life of Silvanus Thompson and his many interests.
  2. To understand the scientific position at the end of the 19th century, and the significance of the discoveries of X-rays and radioactivity.
  3. To understand the origins of the BIR, and the many contributions of our first president.

1 CPD credit.

Watch the video and complete the online self-reflection form. Go to "My events" to download your certificate.

You must login to watch the video and receive CPD.

Duration:63 mins


Speaker info

Professor Adrian Thomas

Professor Thomas was a medical student at University College London. He was taught medical history by Edwin Clarke, Bill Bynum and Jonathan Miller. In the mid-1980s he was a founding member of what is now the British Society for the History of Radiology. In 1995 he organised the radiology history exhibition for the Röntgen Centenary Congress and edited his first book on radiology history. He has published extensively on radiology history and has actively promoted radiology history throughout his career. He is currently the Chairman of International Society for the History of Radiology. Professor Thomas believes it is important that radiology is represented in the wider medical history community and to that end lectures on radiology history in the Diploma of the History of Medicine of the Society Apothecaries (DHMSA). He is the immediate past-president of British Society for the History of Medicine, and the UK national representative to the International Society for History of Medicine.