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Marking time in January 2005

Sunday 30 January 2005

Radioactive tools of trade

The Oak Ridge Associated Universities’ Health Physics Historical Instrumentation Museum aims to chronicle the scientific and commercial history of radioactivity and radiation. The collection includes a shoe-fitting fluoroscope.

Shoe-fitting fluoroscope

The 1930s shoe-fitting fluoroscope
The shoe fitting fluoroscope was a common fixture in shoe stores during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. A typical unit, like the Adrian machine shown here, consisted of a vertical wooden cabinet with an opening near the bottom into which the feet were placed. When you looked through one of the three viewing ports on the top of the cabinet (e.g., one for the child being fitted, one for the child’s parent, and the third for the shoe salesman or saleswoman), you would see a fluorescent image of the bones of the feet and the outline of the shoes.

I can remember using one of these machines to inspect the bones of my feet, in a Brisbane shoe shop in the 1950s.

The museum website also has a discussion of camera lenses made with radioactive thoriated glass. Included in the list is the Asahi Super-Takumar 50mm/f1.4 which took a long journey in my backpack. I no longer have that fine lens, so I don’t know whether it developed a yellow colour as the thorium decayed. Which saves me from having to consider Brian Ayling’s radical treatment.

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Radioactive tools of trade

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