It  might look like something out of a James Bond movie, but this Mullard six-million-electronvolt (MeV) radiotherapy machine was leading-edge technology in 1967.

This is one of many photos in The Royal Marsden’s archives, which we’ve delved into to mark the NHS’s 70th birthday this year.

In fact, we’d started researching the use of radiation to diagnose and treat cancer patients as early as 1912, when we appointed our first physicist. During the Second World War, to avoid the risk of scattering radioactivity in the event of being bombed, radium was buried 40 feet deep in the garden. After the war, we became the first hospital in the UK to treat patients using radioisotopes.

Building the Sutton hospital was a response to the need for more space for radiotherapy and radioisotope research, and the site was chosen partly for the fact that it slopes, making it easier to build spaces that could safely contain radiation in the basement.

Want to know more?

Read about the NHS70 celebrations at