Accidental Scientific Discovery and Invention - X Rays

About the accidental scientific discovery of X-rays, history and information.


Discovery: X rays

Discoverer: Wilhelm Roentgen, Germany

Year: 1895

How Discovered: During the latter part of the 19th century, physicists had begun experimenting with phenomena arising from passing an electric current through gases at low pressure. Under these conditions cathode rays flow from the negative to the positive electrode of a discharge or vacuum tube. In 1895, at the age of 50, Wilhelm Roentgen entered this new field of research. He knew that these cathode rays would pass through a thin window in a discharge tube and cause fluorescence of materials placed near the tube. Could these rays also pass through thick materials and cause fluorescence? Roentgen covered his vacuum tube with black cardboard. To his amazement he found that some crystals of barium-platinum-cyanide that he had left quite by chance at the other end of his workbench fluoresced strongly. He knew this was not due to cathode rays, which could not have traveled that distance. Obviously, a new kind of ray was involved. Roentgen called these new rays X rays.

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