Discovery of X-Rays – Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen
X-rays were discovered on November 8, 1895 by German physics professor Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen at the University of Würtzburg in Germany. He was studying electric discharges in glass tubes filled with various gases at very low pressures. In these experiments, Röntgen had covered the tube with some black paper and had darkened the room. He then discovered that a piece of paper painted with a fluorescent dye, at some distance from the tube, would glow when he turned on the high voltage between the electrodes in the tube. He realized that he had produced a previously unknown “invisible light,” or ray, that was being emitted from the tube and a ray that was capable of passing through the heavy paper covering the tube. Röntgen referred to the radiation as “X”, to indicate that it was an unknown type of radiation.
Realizing the importance of his discovery, Röntgen focused all his attention on the study of this new radiation that had the unusual property of passing through black paper. Through additional experiments, he also found that the new ray would pass through most substances casting shadows of solid objects such as blocks of wood, books and even his hand. He found that X-rays propagate in straight lines from which they are deflected neither by electric nor magnetic fields. The first x-ray image was a picture of his wife’s hand on a photographic plate formed due to X-rays. His discovery spread quickly throughout the world and Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen received the first Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery.