100 years of x rays

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.310.6980.614 (Published 11 March 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:614
  1. Daniel J Nolan
  1. Consultant radiologist Radiology Clinical Centre, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford OX3 9DU

    They turned medicine inside out

    This year marks the centenary of the discovery of x rays by Wilhelm Rontgen. On 8 November 1895 Rontgen observed what led to a revolutionary diagnostic procedure in medicine: each time he passed a high electric voltage through a covered vacuum tube in a darkened room a barium platinocyanide screen lying nearby emitted a mysterious light or fluorescence. Rontgen realised that the invisible rays that were producing the fluorescence had not previously been described, and he called them x rays.1 2 3

    Rontgen did not report his discovery immediately but spent the following seven weeks in his laboratory, meticulously performing experiments and recording his observations. An x ray picture of his wife's hand convinced him of the potential role of the new ray, and in December he presented a …

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