Essay on The Discovery of X-Rays

Essay on The Discovery of X-Rays

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The Discovery of X-Rays


X-rays were discovered by accident in 1895 by the German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen. Roentgen was already an accomplished scientist with forty-eight published papers. He had a reputation among the scientific community as a dedicated scientist with precise experimental methods. Roentgen had been conducting experiments at the University of Wurzburg on the effect of cathode-rays on the luminescence of certain chemicals. Roentgen had placed a cathode-ray tube, which is a partially evacuated glass tube with metal electrodes at each end, in a black cardboard box in his darkened laboratory. He sent electricity through the cathodre-ray tube and noticed something strange his laboratory. He saw a flash of light from a sheet of paper coated with barium platinocyanide that he had unknowingly left on a table at the other end of the lab. Roentgen knew that cathodre-rays could not penetrate the black box and that they only travel short distances. So he deduced that another form of radiation emitted from the cathode tube was causinq the luminescence. Roentgen called this new unknown radiation X-rays. X being the mathematical symbol for a unknown.

Roentgen knew in order to gain credit for his discovery he had to publish his findings before anyone else did. He spent the next seven weeks alone in his laboratory thoroughly examining the specific nature of this new and very powerful radiation. He worked diligently in these seven weeks. He had his meals in the lab and even slept there. During this time, he discovered that this new type of radiation had several specific properties. He found that X-rays were completely invisible, traveled in a straight line, could be neither reflected nor refracted, and were unaff...


... middle of paper ...


...f the second Scientific evolution. This put Roentgen on a par with Galilio whose discoveries led to the first scientific revolution. Due to his refusal to patent his Xray, technology and the hyporinflation of the German economy, Roentgen lived out his life in poverty. He died in 1923 from intestinal cancer which was most likely caused by his prolonged unprotected exposure to X-rays which we now know to be cancer causing.

Works Cited

Travers, Bridget, ed. World of Scientific Discovery. Detroit: Gale Research, 1994.
"X-rays". The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. 1996 ed.

"Nuclear Age Traveling" http://www.em:doe.gov/timeline/ pre40shtml. 8/22/95, 3/10/98,4:06.

"Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen-Discovered X-rays."http://www.fhuerzbnrg.de/roentgen/index_e.html.9/24/1996, 3/10/98,4:00

"X- rays."http://www.fishpond.demon.uo.uk/emspectrum/ xray.html,3 /10/98.4:15

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