MadSci Network: Science History

Re: what scientist discovered x-rays?

Date: Wed Sep 12 22:46:00 2001
Posted By: Artem Evdokimov, Postdoc
Area of science: Science History
ID: 999267119.Sh

Dear User,

In 1838 Michael Faraday described glow, separated into bright regions near 
the electrodes of a partially evacuated tubes filled with gas. In the 1840-
1850ies Heinrich Geissler, Crookes and Lennard design and produce a 
variety of low-pressure gas tubes. These tubes are instantly recognized as 
a source of amusement by the educated elite.

During November 1895, in a partially darkened laboratory, Wilhelm Konrad 
Röntgen (1845-1923) notices fluorescense of barium-platinum cyanide screen 
located some distance from a Crookes tube.

On December 28, 1895  Dr. Roentgen had submitted his manuscript 'On a New 
Kind of Ray, A Preliminary Communication', to the Wurzburg Physical 
Medical Society. Within three more weeks, X-rays were used to set the 
broken arm of a young boy in Dartmouth, New Hampshire.

In 1896 the discovery was publicized, and it was then suggested that 
medical science would benefit from it. Many experiments were performed, 
demonstrating that X-rays can produce images of hidden objects, bones, 
etc. Roentgen received a Nobel prize (the first ever awarded !) for his 
work, in 1901. Roetngen was not a talkative man and was somewhat shy of 
public speaking, thus he managed to substitute his required Nobel talk by 
a single lecture given elsewhere.

Roetngen never profited personally from his discovery, and died in dire 
poverty, in the post-war Germany at the age of 73.

From then till now, the use of X-rays have  provided us with a wealth of 
knowledge in the fields of materials science, physics, chemistry, 
medicine, biology (giving rise to a whole new field of protein 
crystallography), etc. X-rays are used in the manufacture of 
ultramicroscopic devices, semiconductors, plastics, chemicals, and many 
other useful things.

The review of the web information would be too extensive to post here, 
thus I heartily recommend a google search on the subject.

Best regards,


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