Widgets November 8 ~  Busy, Very Busy Life of Roentgen

"There is much to do, and I am busy, very busy." ~ Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen

Ronald Knox

On this day in 1895, German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen (1845-1923) discovered X-rays at the Physical Institute at Würzburg.

Growing up an only child, young Wilhelm preferred hiking his countryside to studying in the classroom and failed his university entrance exams.

Not to worry. He attended school in Zurich, received his Doctor of Philosophy at age 24, and established a laboratory for his researched experiments.

"I didn't think; I experimented," he said and by chance discovered X-rays (Rontgen rays) while investigating the fluorescence of Cathode Rays (electron beams) using Crookes tubes. He darkened the room and enclosed the vacuum tube in black paper. Noticing a weak light on a nearby bench, he realized he had created a new phenomenon.

"It seemed at first a new kind of invisible light. It was clearly something new something unrecorded," he said. Because of their mysterious nature and "x" is used in mathematics to symbolize an unknown, he called the emanations "X-rays."

By December 1895, Roentgen's X-ray photograph of his wife's hand captivated the public's need to see the skeletons of living people.

For this "New Kind of Ray," he received the first Nobel Prize in Physics (1901) and revolutionized medical diagnosis.

There's so much to do.