The Discovery of X-rays

Posted On Dec 27, 2019

Department of

Manipal Hospitals

In 1895, a German physicist, Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen was working on the effects of cathode rays. This experiment involved the passing of electric current through gases at extremely low pressure.

In the month of November 1895 he was performing the experiment in a dark room with a fully covered discharged tube. He observed that certain rays were emitted during the passing of the electric current through the discharge tube. There was a screen covered with barium platinocyanide – which became fluorescent even though it was placed in the path of the rays – two meters away from the discharge tube.

He continued his experiments to capture the images of different objects of different thickness placed in the path of the rays, using a photographic plate. One of Roentgen’s experiments was a film of his wife, Bertha’s hand with a ring on her finger. Through this experiment, he analyzed variable transparency as showed by her bones, flesh, and her wedding ring.

The news of Roentgen’s discovery spread throughout the world. Finally, in nearly 1896, these rays were being used clinically in the United States for capturing images of bone fractures and gunshot wounds.

These rays were X-rays. He named it X-ray because in mathematics “X” is used to indicate an unknown quantity.

Roentgen’s discovery of X-ray was a miracle and it soon became an important diagnostic instrument in medicine. It allowed doctors to see inside a human body without any surgical procedure.

Prior to Roentgen, many scientists such as Thompson, Hertz, and Lenard tried a lot for the early development of this kind of technology. They made good advances but never reached a clear understanding of what Roentgen did.

Now when we talk about X-ray and their importance, we can say that it was impossible to perform many treatment procedures if an X-ray was not discovered.


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