The British Institute of Radiology (BIR) is the oldest radiological society in the world. The origins of the BIR can be traced back to a first meeting held on 2 April 1897 to form "The X-ray Society". The first general meeting of the new society, now called "The Röntgen Society" in honour of Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, was held on 3 June 1897. The formal Grand Inaugural Meeting was held at St Martin's Town Hall in London in November that same year and was less than two years after Röntgen had discovered the X-rays.
Whilst the main impetus for the new society was from doctors, it is remarkable that the first President was the well known physicist, Silvanus P Thompson. The tradition of alternating scientific and medical Presidents goes right back to the beginning of the society.
The medical society "The British Association for the Advancement of Radiology and Physiotherapy" (BARP) was formed in 1917, becoming the British Institute of Radiology in 1924. In 1927 the British Institute of Radiology and the Röntgen Society amalgamated to become "The British Institute of Radiology incorporated with the Röntgen Society", a truly multidisciplinary society.
In 1958 Her Majesty the Queen granted a Royal Charter of Incorporation to the BIR, whose Objects included:
- To promote and encourage the study and practice of the art and science of radiology, radiobiology and the medical applications of nuclear science in all their aspects and the study of kindred sciences.
- To maintain and extend to the public advantage the usefulness of the work of the radiologist, radiobiologist, physicist, radiographer, and X-ray engineer in the field of medicine and in the expanding field of the industrial application of radioactive substances.
- To disseminate knowledge concerning all aspects of the science of radiology, radiobiology and the medical applications of nuclear science.
- To accept subscriptions and gifts of all kinds, whether absolute or conditional, and to undertake and administer trusts for purposes falling within the objects of the Institute.
The BIR became a registered charity in 1963. Its activities are shaped by its charter and byelaws.