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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

photo of wife taken 125 years ago ! changed lives .. .. Xray was born !!

This morning as I watched from my seat (oblivious to that) a colleague – held his hand high, took a selfie, and was busy posting it on social media.  Even in my younger days, a photo (black & white at that) was precious.  ~ even when you had the opportunity to pose for one or take some with a Yashica auto camera – one had to wait anxiously for the result .. .. how many of   those out of  36 on a roll had come good would always be a mystery ! .. .. many test their shooting skills on their spouse ! ~ are you in the habit of taking good photos of your spouse ??  ~ the hero of this post did – and changed the way we live thereafter !

Those seven weeks that produced the image had started when Wilhelm noticed a strange light when he was fiddling with some Crookes tubes. Crookes tubes, glass tubes with a vacuum inside, were a popular scientific apparatus in the late 1800s. Researchers ran electricity through attached cathodes and anodes to create a stream of light called a cathode ray—made up of what we now know are electrons. Wilhelm was investigating something a colleague had noticed, that a small bit of aluminum could be used to redirect some of the cathode ray onto a fluorescent screen next to the tube, which would make the screen light up.

What a life it was  !!  - Röntgen attended high school in Utrecht, Netherlands but reportedly was  expelled from high school when one of his teachers intercepted a caricature.  Years later, Röntgen  married to Anna Bertha Ludwig.  Röntgen died on 10 February 1923 from carcinoma of the intestine.  He inherited two Million Reichsmarks after his father's death.  With the inflation following World War I, Röntgen fell into bankruptcy later in life, spending his final years at his country home at Weilheim, near Munich.  Certainly not an ordinary person ~ a Nobel laureate ..

Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1845 - 1923) was a German mechanical engineer and physicist, who, on 8 November 1895, produced and detected electromagnetic radiation in a wavelength range known as X-rays or Röntgen rays, an achievement that earned him the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901.  To the casual observer, the X-ray of a hand, seen below, appears unremarkable.  However, the first xray ever taken (in Dec 1895) was that of the  wife of the man who accidentally changed the face of medical diagnosis.   Such was the shock Anna Bertha Roentgen felt upon seeing the skeletal picture of her left hand, complete with wedding and engagement rings, that she exclaimed: 'I have seen my death.' 

On November 8 that year, her husband, German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen, had been conducting an experiment in his lab - the effects of passing an electrical current through gases at low pressure - when something caught his eye.  Photographic plates near his equipment had started to glow.  .. .. and days alter on 22nd Dec 1895 – the first ever xray of a human was taken – it was the   left hand, complete with wedding and engagement rings, of Anna Bertha Roentgen - the wife of the man, then  aged 50,  had discovered a new kind of ray: X-radiation, which is composed of X-rays and is a form of high-frequency electromagnetic radiation. Although some labelled the beams Roentgen rays, he preferred the term X-rays.

Roentgen, a professor of physics at Wurzburg University, in Bavaria, realised the phenomenon was due to strange beams being emitted by a glass tube he was using during his investigation. Some of the rays were penetrating solid objects and exposing sheets of photographic paper, creating shadowy images.  As electricity passed between two electrodes in the tube, the rays had an effect on the photographic plates. Roentgen referred to the radiation as 'x', which is used in mathematics to represent an unknown quantity. He then began making X-ray images - or radiographs - of inanimate objects such as weights and a piece of metal.

On January 5, 1896, his findings - which included the picture of the bones of his wife's hand - were published to wide acclaim. His discovery earned him the first Nobel Prize for Physics in 1901.  With their ability to penetrate solid objects, Roentgen's rays would go on to have a wide range of uses, notably in medicine, archaeology and astronomy. Despite his success in the field of X-rays, he abandoned his work on them a year after their discovery, and instead focused on examining crystals. Within a year of the beam's discovery, the world's first radiology department opened, in Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

Roentgen died in Munich in 1923, aged 77.  In a Science Museum poll in 2009, the X-ray was voted by the British public as the most important modern discovery. The antibiotic agent penicillin came second followed by the DNA double helix.

X-rays make up X-radiation, a form of electromagnetic radiation. In many languages, X-radiation is referred to with terms meaning Röntgen radiation, after the German scientist Wilhelm Röntgen  who in 1901, was awarded the first Nobel Prize in Physics. The award was officially "in recognition of the extraordinary services he has rendered by the discovery of the remarkable rays subsequently named after him". Röntgen donated the monetary reward from his Nobel Prize to his university.  Like Pierre Curie, Röntgen refused to take out patents related to his discovery of X-rays, as he wanted society as a whole to benefit from practical applications of the phenomenon. Röntgen was also awarded Barnard Medal for Meritorious Service to Science in 1900.  His honors include:     Rumford Medal (1896);             Matteucci Medal (1896);  Elliott Cresson Medal (1897). In 1907 he became a foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.  In November 2004 IUPAC named element number 111 roentgenium (Rg) in his honour. IUPAP adopted the name in November 2011.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
29th Dec 2018.
Pic & news credit – various websites; specifically MailOnline of date.

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