The Story of Dr. James Third and his x-ray innovations

The x-ray first arrived in Kingston, Ontario in October 1867. This year marks its 125th anniversary!

Upon his departure from Trenton, Ontario in 1896, the local newspaper described Dr. James Third as an enthusiastic, studious, patient, and sympathetic man with a stroke of in-born genius. Dr. Third was leaving to take up a position as medical superintendent at Kingston General Hospital. “Assuredly,” the newspaper reported, “ Kingston General Hospital will have the right man in the right place.”

Dr. James Third–Museum of Health Care 008005002

If Dr. Third’s work with x-rays at Kingston General Hospital is taken as an example, the newspaper was certainly correct! He began working with x-rays in 1897, effectively picking up where John Cochrane, the first man to bring x-rays to Kingston, had left off. Dr. Third was responsible for the installation of x-rays in Kingston General Hospital, and he soon began discovering new ways they could be used for diagnosis, such as detecting pneumonia and tuberculosis, as well as using a fluorescent screen with the x-ray tube to observe real-time movement of the heart and lungs. After he was appointed hospital radiographer in 1900, Dr. Third wrote three articles on the use of x-rays, becoming the first Canadian physician to write a thorough review of the uses of x-rays in medicine. He was later a leader in the creation of Queen’s University’s first course in medical radiology.

The image is that of the hand of Joseph Gorrie, a former councilman for Kingston, who volunteered to have his hand x-rayed at Kingston General Hospital after the arrival of x-ray equipment; the hospital wanted to show that x-rays were safe to those who were afraid–Museum of Health Care 997029001

Despite his deep involvement with x-rays, Dr. Third was cautious, writing that physicians should “consider [x-rays] a valuable adjunct to other means of diagnosis rather than a keen competitor for supremacy.” You can read more about Dr. Third in the CMAJ article, Making Sense of Shadows: Dr. James Third and the introduction of x-rays, 1896 to 1902.

Dr. James Third class picture–Museum of Health Care
Shaelyn Ryan<br>(Collections Technician/Assistant 2020-2021)
Shaelyn Ryan
(Collections Technician/Assistant 2020-2021)

Shaelyn Ryan is an undergraduate student Queen’s University, currently completing her forth (and final) year in the Bachelor of Arts History Program. Either as a Summer Student or Work-Study Student through Queen’s University, Shaelyn has helped catalogue and research many of the museum’s collection of artefacts as a Collections Technician (since 2018).

Leave a Reply