Physics

Roentgen and the Discovery of x Rays



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Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen, a German physicist, made an unexpected discovery while investigating the effects of cathode rays.  He discovered electromagnetic radiation in the wavelength that is known as x-rays. For this remarkable achievement, he was honored with the first Nobel Prize in Physics In 1901. The following tells the story of Roentgen and the discovery of X-rays.

Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen was born on March 27, 1845 in Lennep, (Rhine Province) Germany. In 1848, his family moved to Apeldoorn, Netherlands where he received his early education at a boarding school named Institute of Martinus Herman Van Doorn.   From 1861 to 1863, he enrolled at the Ambachts school in Utrecht from where he was expelled for refusing to reveal the identity of a classmate guilty of unpleasant behavior.

In 1865, he tried to get admission at the University of Utrecht, unfortunately, lacking the required credentials, he was denied admission. Soon after, he passed some examinations, and began his studies in mechanical engineering at the Federal Polytechnic Institute in Zurich. In 1869, he received a Ph. D. at the University of Zurich and met professor August Kundt with whom he became a friend. He followed professor Kundt to the University of Strassburg in 1873.

He became a professor of physics in 1876 at Strassburg, and in 1879 he was given the position as chair of physics at the University of Giessen. From then on, he was appointed to the chair of physics at the University of Wurzburg in 1888; and at the University of Munich in 1900. It is important to say that he declined the chair of physics of various Universities, including Jena in 1886; Utrecht in 1888, and Leipzig in 1899. He also refused the chair of physics of the Berlin Academy.

In 1895, Wilhelm Rontgen was carrying out investigations on the effects of cathode rays when he incidentally discovered x-rays. During one of his experiments, he observed that certain rays were emitted, despite the cardboard covering which was added to prevent the rays from escaping, moreover, he observed that the cathode rays produced a fluorescent effect on a barium platinocyanide covered screen, even though, it was some meters away from the cathode tube.

Rongent realized that a new ray in the electromagnetic wave spectrum was responsible for this. In the days that followed, he spent more time in the laboratory investigating the new properties of the new ray which he termed y-ray. He continued his experiments using photographic plates, capturing the images of a variety of objects which were placed in the path of the rays. By capturing the image of his wife´s hand, he developed for the first time the first scanned image using x-rays.

On December 28, 1895, Rontgen´s original paper (On a new kind of rays; Uber eine neue Art von Strahlen) was published. Rontgen was awarded an honorary Doctor of Medicine degree by the University of Wurzburg for his discovery. Rontgen is considered the father of diagnostic radiology. In addition to x-rays, radiologists now use computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasound, among other technologies in the diagnoses of disease.

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  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://science.hq.nasa.gov/kids/imagers/ems/xrays.html
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