The 19th century was a golden era for sensational scientific discoveries. Never before in history had so much been discovered, invented, measured, and mapped – and newspapers were reporting astonishing findings and innovative electrical devices on an almost daily basis. Toward the end of the century, the first motorized streetcars were operating in cities; streets and alleyways were lit with electric lamps; and people were using elevators, sending telegrams, having their photos taken. In an era such as this, you would be forgiven for thinking that new discoveries ought not to come as a great surprise.
The “shadow-image” of a set of weights inside a box Source: Röntgen Memorial, Würzburg
Röntgen has otherwise always been a sensible fellow, and it’s not carnival season yet.”
Otto Lummer about Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen
Where the X-ray was discovered: Röntgen’s lab at the University of Würzburg Source: German Röntgen Museum
It must have been difficult for Röntgen to convince his contemporaries of what had been going on behind the closed laboratory doors for all those weeks: As well as “X-raying” a wooden spool to produce a photograph of the wire inside it, Röntgen was able to read the direction on a compass enclosed in a metal case and – in one particularly noteworthy example of his many experiments – to look through a closed door by setting up a fluorescent screen in the room next to his lab. Take a glance at Röntgen´s laboratory und learn more about his experiments in our video “Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen“ from 1968.
The most sensational example of the early X-ray images: the bones of Bertha Röntgen’s hand with wedding ring Source: German Röntgen Museum
On December 10, 1901, Röntgen received the first ever Nobel Prize in Physics Source: German Röntgen Museum
By Ingo Zenger
Technology journalist and author at the Siemens Healthineers Historical Institute