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Henry Hulst (1859-1949) | Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

Name: Henry Hulst (1859-1949)

Historical Note:

Once dubbed, “The Father of Roentgenology in America,” from the Grand Rapids Press, Henry Hulst, was a leader in the medical imaging field for his time. Hulst was born in Ferwaard, Friesland, the Netherlands in 1859. Hulst immigrated to the United States and settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1978. Like his father before him, Hulst decided to pursue a career in ministry.

He graduated from Hope College and then went off to Princeton Theological Seminary and Calvin Seminary. While attending Seminary, Hulst concluded that his passion was not in ministry, but rather in medicine. Hulst went off to University of Michigan where he graduated from in 1888. Hulst was very interested in Neuropsychiatry so he began to work at the Northern Michigan Asylum.

By 1897, Hulst interest changed when he discovered the new technology of the X-Ray machine. He became frustrated by the machine’s inability to image the heart and lungs as Hulst’s concentration shifted to studying diseases of the chest. Along with his engineer brother, John, Hulst created a powerful machine that properly imaged the chest in a quarter of a second. Hulst presented his images to the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS) in Chicago, Illinois. The society accused Hulst of fraudulent images and his laboratory was investigated. A leading critic, Dr. Arthur Holding determined that Hulst’s machine and images were legitimate. As a result, Hulst was accepted as a member of the ARRS and even became its president. Hulst had the honor to be the American representative at the International Congress of Roentgenology where he delivered a speech on soft tissue imaging in 1908.

Hulst suffered from adult onset diabetes, which led him to decline the Chairman of Radiology at the University of Michigan position offered to him.  His diabetes also prevented him from continuing his career in research. Hulst treated his diabetes in a scientific manner, allowing him to live 40 years with the disease. At the age of 90, Henry Hulst passed away on January 2, 1949. He was married to Cornelia Steketee.

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