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Technology and Culture 41.4 (2000) 815-816

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Book Review

Looking Within: How X-Ray, CT, MRI, Ultrasound, and Other Medical Images Are Created and How They Help Physicians Save Lives

Looking Within: How X-Ray, CT, MRI, Ultrasound, and Other Medical Images Are Created and How They Help Physicians Save Lives. By Anthony Brinton Wolbarst. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. Pp. xiii+206; illustrations, figures, tables, notes/references, index. $50 (cloth); $19.95 (paper).

This slim, attractive volume is intended to introduce the reader to the basic concepts underlying the creation of several types of medical images, starting with X rays and moving on to include CAT scans, MRI scans, nuclear medicine images, and ultrasound images. These various types of images are produced by various types of physical processes, some related to each other directly (such as X rays and fluoroscopy), some computationally (such as X rays and the CAT scan), and some only by their utility for making a picture of the inside of a human body (such as MRI and ultrasound).

Anthony Wolbarst's book includes only a bit of history, and the historical sketches are not its strength, but history is not the point of the volume. Rather, it is intended as an introduction to our current understanding of the physical basis on which these images are produced, to be read by people [End Page 815] who are unlikely to go much farther in their analysis of the technical aspects of imaging. Moreover, by treating the subjects at multiple levels of analysis, Wolbarst makes the topic accessible to readers with varying levels of sophistication in the physical or biological sciences. He uses many well-reproduced images as well as insightful schematic diagrams and "thought experiments" to explain concepts, and clinical case studies to show how these imaging devices can make a difference for patient care. A nice sense of humor throughout makes the book an easy and enjoyable one to read. This book could be valuable to readers of Technology and Culture who want an introduction to current ideas about medical imaging technologies.

Joel D. Howell

Dr. Howell is a practicing internist and historian of medical technology who has published widely on the history of medical technology in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including several works on the history of medical imaging technology.

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pp. 815-816
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