Today, November 8, 1895: Röntgen Discover X-rays

On March 27, 1845, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen was born in then Lennup, Prussia. Today, you will find it on the map named Remscheid, Germany, located about 20 miles east of Düsseldorf and 20 northeast of Cologne.

In 1848, the Röntgen family moved to Apeldoorn, Netherlands where young Wilhelm was educated.

In 1865, Röntgen studied physics at the University of Utrecht.

In 1869, Röntgen received a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Zurich where he studied under the famed psychist Rudolf Julius Emmanuel Clausius and he worked in the laboratory of famed German physicist August Kundt.

From 1869 to 1872, Röntgen spent with Kundt at universities in Würzburg and then Strasbourg.

In 1874, Röntgen served as a lecturer at Strasbourg.

In 1875, Röntgen served as professor at the Academy of Agriculture at Hohenhelm, located in Württemberg.

In 1876, Röntgen became Professor of Physics at Strasbourg University

In 1879, Röntgen became Chair of Physics at the University of Glessen.

In 1888, Röntgen became Chair of Physics at the University of Würzburg.

On this day, November 8, 1895, Röntgen formally discovered a radioactive product produced by cathode tubes that he named x-rays.

“Accidently he put a piece of cardboard covered with fluorescent mineral near the experimental set and noticed it glowing in the dark when the source of cathode rays was turned on. Roentgen immediately initiated an experiment aimed at investigation of the phenomenon.”

“He found that that if vacuum tube, used for experiments with cathode rays, was covered tightly with thin, black cardboard and placed in a darkened room, bright glow was observed during each discharge on a screen covered with fluorescent barium platinum cyanide (placed near the device). He realized that the fluorescence was caused by an agent which could infiltrate from within the vacuum tube through dark cardboard (impermeable to visible or ultraviolet radiation) to the outside of the set.”

Röntgen also discovered early on that the x-rays would pass through human tissue, but leaving an image of bones and metal on photographic film. One of his earliest experiments in 1895 was him producing an x-ray image of his wife’s hand that clearly revealed her bones and wedding ring.

In 1896, many clinics in the United States began using x-rays to detect broken bones and bullets left if the body.

In 1900, Röntgen became Chair of Physics at the University of Munich.

In 1901, Röntgen was awarded the first ever Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of x-rays.

In 1904, Clarence Daily, assistant to Thomas Edison died of skin cancer that he got from working with x-rays. This caused many in the scientific and medical fields to step back and start looking at the harmful effects of exposure to x-rays.

On February 10, 1923, Röntgen died from a carcinoma of the intestines. He was living in Munich at the time. All reports say that Röntgen was a humble man who never sought to patent his discovery as so many others did.


Sources for the above includes: Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen – Biographical; Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen – Facts; November 8, 1895: Roentgen’s Discovery of X-Rays; German Scientist Discovers X-rays; Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen And The Discovery Of X-Ray Beams; The Discovery of X-Rays; Wilhelm Röntgen

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