Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen
Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen was a German physicist who is best known for his discovery of X-rays in 1895. Born on March 27, 1845, in Lennep, Germany, Röntgen was the only child of a cloth merchant. He received his education at the Technical School in Utrecht and then studied mechanical engineering at the University of Utrecht. However, he soon discovered that his true passion was for physics.
In 1869, Röntgen went to the University of Zurich to study under the famous physicist, August Kundt. There, he earned his Ph.D. in physics in 1870. After graduation, he spent several years working as a lecturer and researcher at various universities across Germany. During this time, he made significant contributions to the field of thermodynamics, including the discovery of a new law of cooling that bears his name.
In 1879, Röntgen was appointed as a professor of physics at the University of Strasbourg. There, he continued his research on the properties of gases and developed a technique for studying the electrical properties of solid materials. In 1888, he moved to the University of Würzburg, where he made his groundbreaking discovery of X-rays in 1895.
Discovery of X-Rays
The discovery of X-rays was accidental. Röntgen was conducting experiments on cathode rays, a type of electromagnetic radiation, when he noticed that a fluorescent screen in his laboratory began to glow even though it was not being hit by the cathode rays. He realized that a new type of radiation was being produced, which he called X-rays.
Röntgen spent the next few months studying the properties of X-rays and published his findings in a paper titled “On a New Kind of Rays.” He demonstrated that X-rays could penetrate through objects that were opaque to visible light, such as the human body. This discovery opened up new possibilities for medical diagnosis and treatment.
Röntgen was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901 for his discovery of X-rays. He was the first person to receive this prestigious award in recognition of a single achievement. He donated the entire amount of his prize money to the University of Würzburg, where he continued to work until his retirement in 1920.
Throughout his life, Röntgen was known for his modesty and dedication to science. He never patented his discovery of X-rays, believing that it should be freely available for the benefit of humanity. He continued to make significant contributions to the field of physics, including the discovery of a new type of electromagnetic radiation called “Röntgen radiation.”
Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen died on February 10, 1923, in Munich, Germany. His discovery of X-rays revolutionized the field of medicine and opened up new possibilities for scientific research. He remains one of the most important and influential physicists of the modern era.