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Birmingham City Council

Major John Hall-Edwards

Major John Hall-Edwards (1858 - 1926) is important in being the British pioneer of X-ray treatment.

For several years before the announcement of Rontgen's discovery, he had been engaged on experiments in the application of electricity to surgery. When the Rontgen Rays were made known, he devoted himself day and night to experiments, but in 1908 he had to have his left arm amputated owing to the spread of X-ray dermatitis.

Hall-Edwards was one of the earliest investigators of the rays in this country, and the first radiograph for the purposes of an operation in the United Kingdom, had been taken by him on 14th February, 1896.

In spite of his infirmities, Hall-Edwards was, for over 20 years, Senior Medical Officer in charge of the X-ray department of the General Hospital, and also carried on a practice in Newhall Street as a radiographer.

At the outbreak of the First World War, he co-operated with Colonel Hart, the officer commanding troops in Birmingham, in the promotion of the recruiting movement. He did much effective platform work and, when the Military Service Act came into operation, he was promoted Major and appointed Senior Medical Officer at the Military Command Depot at Sutton Coldfield. Later he was in charge of the X-ray departments at Hollymoor, Monyhull and Rubery Military Hospitals. The doctor had previously seen service with the colours, having served in South Africa as surgeon-Radiographer to the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital.

He entered into municipal politics in December 1920, when he became a member of the City Council as a Unionist, by winning a by-election in the Rotton Park Ward.

He was a most useful member of the Public Health, Museum and Art Gallery, and Public Libraries Committees. All of the Committees were concerned with activities that were among his life-long interests.

Despite his grievous afflictions, the doctor was of a thoroughly companionable nature all through his life, and pursued with zest a number of absorbing hobbies. Photography was his principal relaxation, and in all areas of it he was a master.

Some 50 medals testified to his success in competitive circles, among them, the Calcutta Bronze Medal - twice - and the premier award of the Amateur Photographer, thrice in succession. He was one of a dozen Honorary Fellows of the Royal Photographic Society.

Hall-Edwards is commemorated by a blue and white commemorative plaque erected by the Birmingham Civic Society on the exterior of the Children's Hospital (formerly the General Hospital) in Steelhouse Lane.