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Authors: Prof. Robin Williams and Gigi Williams

Dr Peter Hansell (1921 - 2002)

Sadly Peter Hansell passed away on July 13th 2002

Peter Hansell (Figure 28) was widely acknowledged as one of the most significant figures in the history of medical photography. As a young medical student he had a passion for photography and wrote in the medical school journal an article about a hypothetical "audiovisual unit." A year after graduation from medical school in 1945 he persuaded the then Dean to allow him to establish the first official department of medical photography in Britain. From this small start Hansell went on to establish one of the most respected centres of medical imaging in the world. Many of the leading figures in the profession studied under Hansell. A constant stream of publications, medals and prizes characterized the generations of talented medical photographers who worked for him. Peter Hansell stands as a 'giant' in the field of medical illustration: he set up training for medical photographers in 1948, was the Founding Chairman of the Institute of Medical and Biological Illustration, was the Founding editor of the Journal Medical and Biological Illustration (now the Journal of Audiovisual Media in Medicine). Apart from being a Fellow of his own college - The Royal College of Physicians - he was an Honorary Fellow of The Institute of Medical and Biological Illustration, The Royal Photographic Society and The British Institute of Professional Photography. In the US he was a Fellow of the Biological Photographic Association and a Louis Schmidt Laureate. He won countless medals and prizes and was the author of many books, chapters and papers on all aspects of medical illustration. Even in retirement he still published constantly and continued to mentor many of his old "Westminster" staff. Hansell made contributions to the field of invisible radiation photography both as an individual and as mentor to others - including Lunnon & Tredinnick described here, and one of the authors of this site (Williams).

Dr Peter Hansell

Figure 28 (above). Dr Peter Hansell.

Hansell in 1961 contributed a chapter entitled 'Ultraviolet Radiations' to a book called 'Medical Photography in Practice'. In this Hansell discussed the light sources and filtration available at that time and described the use of fluorescence in chromatography and the photography of morbid specimens, dentistry and bacteriology. He showed an example of the fluorescence of teeth. He also mentioned the use of the reflected ultraviolet technique and showed a striking example of how ultraviolet radiation is absorbed by the melanin in freckles (Figure 29). A footnote to the chapter recorded that the manuscript was contributed in 1956 making this the first recording of freckles with invisible radiation. In general chapters about ultraviolet photography the application of the fluorescence technique to chromatography was demonstrated and its value discussed.

UV transparency of melanin in freckles

Figure 29 (above). The absorbtion of ultraviolet radiation by the melanin in freckles.

He updated this chapter in 1968 advocating the testing of the efficiency of any filter combination by photographing a specularly reflecting metal object. In this way, the specular reflection from the source should be entirely absorbed by the barrier filter on the camera lens. In 1984 he co-authored with Ray Lunnon a chapter on ultraviolet and fluorescence recording in 'Photography for the Scientist.'


  • Hansell, P., 1961, "Ultraviolet radiations," In Medical photography in practice Linsson, E. (Ed). 175-192. Fountain Press. London.
  • Hansell, P ., 1968, "Ultraviolet and fluorescence recording," In Photography for the scientist. Engel, C. (Ed). 363-382. Academic Press. London and New York.
  • Hansell, P. & Lunnon, R. (1984) "Ultraviolet and fluorescent recording" in 'Photography for the Scientist', Ed. Morton, R. Academic Press, London.

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© 2002 Prof. Robin Williams and Gigi Williams - Disclaimer
Last modified: 26 July 2002