Fotograf büyültme (© picture alliance / ZB) Where the human eye met its limitations, he found a way: in 1895, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen laid the foundations of many an innovation in medicine by discovering x-rays. Thanks to his invention, doctors today can look at all the bones and organs inside a person’s body without having to make a single incision.
Röntgen’s discovery of this previously unknown radiation was not deliberate. He was actually conducting an experiment with a cathode-ray tube when objects nearby suddenly started glowing. Even when Röntgen completely covered the tube with cardboard, the objects kept glowing. Only then did he become aware of what he had accidentally discovered. He called his discovery “x-radiation”, though it later became known as Röntgen radiation in German-speaking countries as well as in Russia and Poland.
Röntgen’s discovery spread like wildfire. In 1901, he received the first ever Nobel Prize in Physics. Among the people inspired by his research was Henri Becquerel, who used Röntgen’s findings to discover radioactivity. Today, x-rays are mainly used in the field of medicine. A lot of development was needed to make this possible, significantly lowering the intensity of the radiation and increasing the quality of the x-ray pictures. With these improvements, x-rays are now used not only in CT scans but also in space exploration and analysing welded joints in mechanical engineering.